Our Brief & Testimony at the SECU Committee on Bill C-59, the National Security Act of 2017

As we’ve said before, while Bill C-59 contains some positive provisions around new review and oversight bodies, as well as some changes to the criminal code, it does not go far enough and introduces many very problematic elements. Bill C-59 fits into the steady progression, since the first Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001, of expanding and enshrining significant, secretive and dangerous powers in the hands of Canada’s national security agencies.

We’ve submitted an extensive analysis of Bill C-59 to the House Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU). In our brief, we present realistic and necessary recommendations, suggestions and areas of examination that we believe will help to strengthen not just Canadians’ rights, but also our security. A summary of our recommendations is listed below. You can read the full brief here. And share it on Facebook and Twitter.

We also testified at the SECU committee alongside our partner OpenMedia on February 8th, 2018. Watch our testimony here:

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Summary of Recommendations

Part 1: The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency
While welcome, the new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) could be strengthened. Among other things, we recommend:
  • Increasing the number of members
  • Appointing NSIRA members through parliament and not through the Prime Minister
  • That the Agency be given binding powers
  • More precision and clarity in public reports
  • Greater accountability and transparency around how the agency will deal with public complaints
Part 2: The Intelligence Commissioner Act
The creation of the Intelligence Commissioner (IC) is also welcome, but needs serious strengthening, including:
  • Intelligence Commissioner appointments should be approved by a 2/3 vote in the House of Commons, and the position should be full-time
  • Increased public reporting and greater transparency in decision making
  • Stronger powers to impose conditions on surveillance operations
  • Oversight of cyber operations
Part 3: The Communications Security Establishment Act
Our recommendations include:
  • Narrow the Communications Security Establishment’s (CSE) new cyber-operations mandate, and place greater restrictions and oversight on what cyber actions the CSE can take
  • Take action to further restrict the collection of Canadian and foreign data, and to prevent mass surveillance operations
  • Include a definition of metadata and restrict its collection and use
  • Restrict the definition, collection and use of “publicly available information”
  • Increase human rights safeguards when sharing information with other countries
Part 4: Amendments to the CSIS Act
Our recommendations include:
  • Eliminate disruption powers brought in with Bill C-51
  • Remove provisions granting broad immunity to CSIS agents to break Canadian law
  • Restrict CSIS’ new data collection powers and increase its oversight
  • Restrict the definition, collection, and use of publicly available information as CSIS datasets.
Part 5: The Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act
  • We recommend that SCISA, established with Bill C-51, be repealed in favour of new legislation to protect privacy and information that is shared for national security purposes.
Part 6: Amendments to the Secure Air Travel Act
Our recommendations include:
  • Establishing effective and transparent processes for both redress and appeals
  • Ultimately repealing the Secure Air Travel Act (brought in with Bill C-51) and ending the No Fly List program in general
Part 7: Amendments to the Criminal Code
We recommend:
  • Removing redundant “counselling terrorism offenses” provisions
  • Repealing the “Terrorist Entities Listing” process in favour of existing criminal code provisions
Part 9: Review
  • We recommend reducing the review period to five years for new oversight and review mechanisms and to three years for new CSIS and CSE powers.
What’s missing from Bill C-59
  • A strong review mechanism to look at the CBSA and its activities outside of national security.
  • Bill C-59 should include a provision that puts an end to the security certificate regime.

Read our full brief here.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. Here at ICLMG, we are working very hard to protect and promote human rights and civil liberties in the context of the so-called “war on terror” in Canada. We do not receive any financial support from any federal, provincial or municipal governments or political parties.

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