Bill C-59: “Extraordinary Permissive” Powers or Necessary Security Reform?

Computer crime concept

Bill C-59, An act respecting national security measures, is currently in the hands of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. The controversial new bill, which introduces many changes to Canada’s national security legislation, has raised several red flags across the nation. Critics of the bill claim the legislation gives “extraordinary permissive” new powers to Canada’s foreign intelligence organization, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) (Scotti, 2018).

As it currently stands, Bill C-59 expands the powers of the CSE, allowing employees to engage in cyber attacks, or as the liberal government calls it, defensive and active cyber operations (Scotti, 2018). Defensive operations could, for example, allow the CSE to disable and corrupt information on computers located in foreign countries that are being used to “hack” information and steal social security numbers from a government network (Freeze, 2018). Active cyber operations, on the other hand, could involve “disrupting, “responding to” and/or “interfering with” the activities of any “foreign individual, state, organization or terrorist group, if it relates to defence, security, or international affairs (Scotti, 2018).  The CSE is currently working to reassure the Canadian public that these new powers will not be used against citizens, but will be used to monitor “hacktivists” on the Internet more effectively (Freeze, 2018)

It must be noted that Bill C-59 is a significant departure from Harper’s Bill C-51, also known as the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015This bill gave extensive powers to security institutions such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and substantially increased the government’s role in national security and privacy law. While CSIS was originally established as an intelligence agency, Bill C-51 suddenly allowed the organization to have police-type powers and do whatever it needed in order to investigate security threats to Canada.

However, while the proposed Bill C-59 improves upon Bill C-51, there are still many improvements that can be made. While the appeal process has improved slightly, in its current form, Bill C-59 has yet to fix the difficult process one must endure to remove his or her name from the no-fly list under the Secure Air Travel ActFurther, while Bill C-59 has altered its regulations on torture-implicated intelligence, the government has yet to comply with international law and completely prohibit its use.


This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.

1 Comment on "Bill C-59: “Extraordinary Permissive” Powers or Necessary Security Reform?"

  1. We cannot rest until we have a complete return to pre-9/11 freedoms. Tragic as it was, the legislation sold to Canadians as necessary for our defence and the extraordinary powers it provided to the government with little to no oversight was, in my opinion, more tragic still.

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