Forty prominent organizations and individuals from across Canadian civil society have issued a joint letter to government that lays out overarching concerns with Bill C-59, “An Act respecting national security matters.”
The letter argues that while Bill C-59 makes what it calls “some meaningful and necessary improvements to Canada’s national security regime”, but it fails to reverse the legacy of the Harper government’s Bill C-51, and introduces serious new problems. The signatories all share the concern that the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Charter are still not where they belong, at the core of Canada’s national security framework.
They say that Bill C-59 reverses some, but certainly not all, of former Bill C-51’s excesses. It creates new bodies to review and control national security activities; introduces a detailed and explicit new law for Canada’s signals intelligence agency, the CSE; adds new protections for the rights of youth involved in terrorism-related offences; and reforms the terrorist speech offences introduced by Bill C-51.
“Bill C-59 brings forward important and useful changes to Canada’s existing anti-terrorism laws,” says Ihsaan Gardee, Executive Director, National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), “but it leaves us with ongoing concerns about the lack of due process around the no-fly list and the strengthening and deepening of CSIS powers, given the damage the spy agency has done to Canadian Muslims. Well known Canadian Muslims have been discriminatorily profiled and rendered to torture by Canada for no reason other than their faith and identity. At the same time, Canadian Muslims have been subject to rising hate crimes and violent attacks by individuals for the same reason. National security policy that is incapable of protecting all Canadians equally is not worthy of our endorsement, even if it is a significant improvement over more odious previous legislation.”
The signatories also identify a number of specific aspects of Bill C-59 which require serious attention and meaningful change, including:
- The newly-renamed Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act still permits far too much information to flow between too many departments, and to further concerning objectives;
- The no-fly list still lacks adequate due process while proposed redress mechanisms remain unfunded;
- The bill fails to reverse the low threshold Bill C-51 set for terrorism peace bonds;
- The preventative detention powers introduced in 2001 are still in place and remain deeply problematic;
- The risk for abuse of CSIS disruption powers is reduced, but the government has yet to demonstrate either their necessity or constitutionality;
- The newly created oversight agencies lack the guarantees necessary to ensure their effectiveness;
- The general risk that our security activities will once again contribute to torture remains;
- CSE “active” cyber security powers (i.e. offensive hacking) are introduced without a rationale for their necessity or measures to adequately prevent abuse;
- The new bill fails to reverse the erosion of due process C-51 extended in security certificate proceedings; and
- The bill legitimizes troubling conduct, including mass surveillance by our foreign intelligence agency and extensive data-mining.
The full text of the letter can be found at the website of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, https://ccla.org