New Bill Threatens Privacy, Liberty and Citizenship

Bill C-44 was tabled by Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney. The Bill named, An Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other Acts will have large repercussions on privacy and Canadian citizenship. On January 28th it was reported back to the House without amendment and it received concurrence at the Report Stage in the House of Commons. A motion was also passed on that day in order to allocate no more than one further sitting day for debate of C-44 at both the report stage and third reading.

As summarized by LegisInfo, the Act is meant to provide greater protection to CSIS’s human sources. It will enable CSIS to more effectively investigate threats to Canadian security. The Act will allow the Federal Court to issue warrants that have effect outside of Canada and it makes amendments to the Access to Information Act. It will also allow for the coming into force of provisions relating to the revocation of Canadian citizenship.  The CCLA made written submissions to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security which can be found here.

When introducing the Bill, the CBC reported that Blaney told the Commons that, “it is important for new public safety legislation not to be an overreaction to events such as the attacks in Ottawa and Quebec last week, but it is equally important for the Canadian government not to under-react to threats”

However, the Bill is raising concerns that it gives Canada’s spy agency powers that it does not need and may in fact interfere with privacy concerns.

The Globe and mail reported that the Bill, “would also allow CSIS – with a judge’s approval – to capture conversations involving Canadian suspects taking place abroad. “Without regard to any other law, including that of a foreign state, a judge may in a warrant …. authorize activities outside Canada to enable the Service to investigate a threat to the security of Canada”.

While the government believes that this clause will open channels of communication between Canada and allies in the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, the result of the clause may prove to be highly controversial. It essentially grants CSIS unlimited powers globally without any regard to law, and this is going to be highly problematic.

This Bill may not be the last in the Government’s response to terrorism. The Globe and Mail reported that  “sources say Ottawa is also considering measures to crack down on individuals who openly support terrorist attacks on this country or groups that call on aggressors to attack Canadians and Canadian soldiers.” This comes on the heels of the government signalling that it is looking at lowering the threshold for preventative arrests.

The full text of Bill c-44 can be found here.