What we’ve been up to in 2023: Please help us protect civil liberties in 2024!

Here is what we’ve accomplished in the second half of 2023 thanks to your support:

Bill C-20, Public Complaints and Review Commission Act

Bill C-20 would create a new, independent review agency for both the RCMP and CBSA, the first ever independent review body for the CBSA. ICLMG has:

  • Met with NDP Public Safety Critic Peter Julian and his staff to discuss amendments to the bill
  • Worked with other orgs to raise concerns around the lack of civil society consultation and invitations to committee hearings
  • Sent and published a detailed joint statement which included specific amendments for the House Public Safety committee’s consideration. The committee adopted several key recommendations, but other important issues remain unaddressed.

Bill C-26, An Act respecting cybersecurity and amending the Telecommunications Act

The broad powers granted to government ministers in this bill raise concerns about the potential for secret surveillance, especially given the role of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) in protecting cybersecurity in Canada. ICLMG has:

  • Reviewed and signed on to a joint brief with other civil society organizations that was submitted to the House Public Safety committee.

Bill C-27, Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022

Bill C-27 is the government’s long-promised update to Canada’s private sector privacy law and would enact a new Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA), which raises major concerns given the growing use of AI in surveillance capitalism and government surveillance. ICLMG has:

  • Submitted a brief to the Industry committee (INDU) for its study of C-27
  • Testified before the INDU committee calling for the removal of national security exemptions
  • Created a letter writing campaign calling for the removal of said exemptions
  • Joined civil society partners for a press conference before our committee appearance
  • Met with the European Centre for Non-profit Law, which is working to address a similar law
  • Presented on AI at the Confederation of Canadian Unions‘ labour school
  • Sent three joint letters as part of the Right2YourFace Coalition – a group of prominent civil society organizations and scholars:
    • One in September to the Industry Minister demanding proper consideration for AI regulations and better protections against AI overreach
    • Another in November to the Min of Public Safety, of Industry & others on C-27’s impact on the oversight of facial recognition tech & how it will be dangerous for Canadians
    • Another in December calling for a full public consultation and redrafting of AIDA, starting with splitting AIDA from the other parts of Bill C-27
  • Met with the Senior Policy Advisor to the Industry Minister to discuss our concerns and required amendments to C-27.

Bill C-41: International assistance and anti-terrorism laws

Humanitarian aid and international assistance generally is being hindered by Canada’s anti-terrorism laws, particularly in Afghanistan – a risk ICLMG has long warned about. In Spring 2023, the government tabled Bill C-41 to ostensibly address the issue through amendments to the Criminal Code. Despite several remaining shortcomings, the bill received royal assent this past June. On this topic, ICLMG has:

  • Submitted an updated brief to the Senate Committee on Human Rights
  • Met with Senator Omidvar’s office regarding concerns with the bill
  • Issued a statement highlighting remaining concerns regarding non-humanitarian international assistance after the bill received royal assent
  • Reviewed, provided feedback and participated in group consultation with Public Safety and Global Affairs officials regarding proposed guidelines/guidance on Bill C-41.

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Canadians detained in Northeastern Syria

At least 23 Canadians, including 13 children, and 3 non-Canadian mothers remain indefinitely detained in camps and prisons in northeast Syria in conditions akin to torture. We have:

  • Updated and promoted our letter-writing campaign in favour of repatriation
  • Strategized with colleagues around further actions to push for repatriation
  • Reacted to the terrible news that the Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of the families of four Canadian men detained in NE Syria.

Justice for Dr Hassan Diab & reform of the Extradition Act

In April 2023, France proceeded with the trial of Dr. Hassan Diab, and in a miscarriage of justice, convicted him in absentia for the 1980 Rue Copernic bombing. We continue to advocate for Dr. Diab’s rights to be protected and for reforms to the Extradition Act, including by:

  • Hosting a press conference featuring Hassan Diab, Alex Neve, Rob Currie & Bernie Farber, in advance of the delivery of a petition, signed by more than 10,000 people, calling on PM Trudeau to commit to refusing any second request for Hassan’s extradition
  • Publishing an open letter signed by over 130 members of the Canadian legal community calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to deny any second request from the French government that Dr. Diab be extradited to France
  • Updating and sharing our letter-writing campaign.

Security certificates & inadmissibility

ICLMG has continued to work to eliminate security certificates, and defend the rights of those who are placed under one. Since June, this work has included:

  • Updating the Moe Harkat letter-writing campaign, and sharing on December 10, the 21st “anniversary” of his arrest, calling for justice, freedom and an end to his ordeal
  • Writing an urgent letter to the Minister of Immigration, urging him to stop the deportation of Dr. Ezzat Gouda to a death sentence in Egypt. We were relieved to learn that he was not deported.

Combatting Islamophobia

The ICLMG continues to oppose racial, religious and other forms of profiling and targeting by national security activities and laws, particularly that of Muslim and Arab communities and people of color. To that effect, we have:

  • Met twice with Amira Elghawaby, the federal Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia, to discuss key issues including:
    • The rise of Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism in Canada following Israel’s ongoing violence and attacks in Gaza
    • The detention of Canadians in northeast Syria
    • The impact of anti-terrorism financing laws on Muslim organizations
  • Participated in a panel on “Counter Radicalization: Security Agencies and AI” at the Human Rights and Islamophobia national conference held in Winnipeg and organized by the Islamic Social Services Association.
  • Attended the Muslim Association of Canada’s convention to receive their “Friend of the Community” award for our National Coordinator Tim McSorley’s work and the work of the ICLMG against Islamophobia and fighting for justice.
  • Published two statements and created and updated our action calling for Canada to oppose the genocide in Gaza and to protect free speech at home.

National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA)

As part of our work on accountability, the ICLMG continues to monitor, react to and engage with the work of the NSIRA by:

  • Meeting with Stephanie Mulcaster, Senior Counsel and Director, Investigations, regarding NSIRA’s relationship with the Citizen Review and Complaints Commission and Bill C-20
  • Meeting with NSIRA member Craig Forcese to discuss NSIRA priorities and suggest potential areas for investigations/reviews

Prejudiced audits of Muslim charities

After the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson tasked with investigating the CRA’s prejudiced audits released his report and complained he didn’t have access to all the necessary information, the NSIRA decided to launch its own investigation – one of the key recommendations from our 2021 report. Since, our work has included:

  • Reacting to the Senate Human Rights committee’s report on Islamophobia and continue calling for a moratorium on the CRA’s audits of Muslim charities until the NSIRA completes its review and proper legal changes are made
  • Speaking with media regarding the Muslim Association of Canada’s charter challenge of the CRA’s audit of the organization

Federal anti-terrorist financing consultation

The federal Department of Finance held a consultation on its review of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA). As per our mandate, we focused on the anti-terrorist financing aspect of the act. We sent in a brief detailing our concerns with anti-terror laws in general, the anti-terrorism financing regime specifically & the consultation itself.

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

ICLMG continues to engage with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) as part of our work on oversight and accountability:

  • We participated in the OPC’s quarterly civil society round-table to discuss current privacy issues, including biometrics and bill C-27
  • We participated in the OPC’s consultation on its draft guidance on the application of PIPEDA and the Privacy Act regarding biometrics. We will be submitting a brief in the new year.

Canada’s 4th Universal Periodic Review

Canada is currently taking part in its 4th Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council. As we have done in previous cycles, the ICLMG has submitted a brief to the Council for consideration in its review. We have also participated in a consultation process intended to gather the views of civil society regarding the recommendations from other states given to Canada at the United Nations on November 10 as part of its UPR.

Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Counter-terrorism

The ICLMG continues to participate in the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Counter-terrorism. Since June, this has included:

  • Participation in the coalition’s annual retreat to discuss international and national areas of concerns, strategy and next steps
  • Participation in working group meetings regarding the renewal of the UN’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, as well as the human rights impact of emerging technology used to counter terrorism
  • Support from coalition members around the UN Counter-terrorism Committee’s visit and assessment of Canada’s implementation of counter-terrorism measures.

UN Counter-terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) Canada assessment

This year marked the second assessment of Canada’s implementation of UN counter-terrorism resolutions by CTED. Following our meeting with UN representatives in March, we have continued efforts for the public release of their report on Canada. To that end, we have:

  • Remained in contact with CTED regarding the status of the report
  • Written to Global Affairs Canada urging the release of the report
  • Met with Global Affairs Canada’s head of counter-terrorism and intelligence to discuss the matter.

UN Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights global study on counter-terrorism and civic space

ICLMG participated in a special consultation organized by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, on the impact of counter-terrorism measures on civic space. The Global Study on the Impact of Counter-Terrorism on Civil Society & Civic Space has since been published and we have shared it widely.


“Judge expresses sympathy, but rules audit of Muslim charity should run its course,” The Canadian Press, 14 September 2023

“Proposed AI regulations need more scrutiny, groups urge Ottawa,” Jim Bronskill, Global News, 25 September 2023

“Canadian groups call for more careful consideration of artificial intelligence measures,” Jim Bronskill, CP24, 25 September 2023

« Intelligence artificielle: Des organisations et des experts soutiennent que la loi est “inadéquate” », La Presse canadienne, 25 septembre 2023

“Experts urge changes to proposed Canadian privacy, AI laws before today’s hearing,” Howard Solomon, IT World Canada, 26 September 2023

“‘The devil’s in the details and we don’t have any’: critics decry feds’ lack of clarity on changes to privacy and AI bill,” Stuart Benson, The Hill Times, 4 Oct 2023

“Privacy bill fails to address dangers of facial recognition technology: coalition,” Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press, 1 November 2023

“Civil Society Groups Outline Concerns with Federal Privacy Reform Bill,” CPAC, 2 November 2023

“Civil liberties groups give C-27 failing grade, call for AIDA to be ‘reset and reworked’ separately,” Stuart Benson, The Hill Times, 8 November 2023

“Licence to break the law: More Canadian spies get permission to commit crimes, memo shows,” Chris Arsenault, CBC News, 6 December 2023

“Federal consultations on AI regulations heavily skewed toward businesses, industry groups, say critics,” Joe Castaldo, The Globe and Mail, 10 December 2023

“Civil society groups call for AIDA to be considered separately from C-27,” The Wire Report, 14 December, 2023

Check out all coverage of ICLMG in the media here.

We have also published many reactions and commentary on our social media accounts, which continue to reach tens of thousands.

We publish our News Digest every other week, which is distributed to thousands of people and has received numerous accolades.

+ Check out the News Digest archive if you’ve missed some of our issues.

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What we have planned for 2024!

Your support will allow us to continue our work on these issues and much more in the next year:

  • Ensuring that the Canadian government’s proposals on “online harms” do not violate fundamental freedoms, or exacerbate the silencing of racialized and marginalized voices
  • Protecting our privacy from government surveillance, including facial recognition, and from attempts to weaken encryption, along with advocating for good privacy law reform
  • Greater accountability and transparency for the Canada Border Services Agency
  • Advocating for the repeal of the Canadian No Fly List, and for putting a stop to the use of the US No Fly List by air carriers in Canada
  • Pressuring lawmakers to protect our civil liberties from the negative impact of national security and the “war on terror”, as well as keeping you and our member organizations informed via the News Digest
  • Publishing a collection of essays written by amazing partners on the work of the ICLMG for our 20th anniversary
  • And much more!

If you think our work is important, please support the ICLMG!

We do not receive any funding from any federal, provincial or municipal governments or political parties so your support is essential to our work.

We are counting on people like you.

Thank you for your support in protecting civil liberties!

— Xan & Tim

PS: For what we were up to in the first half of 2023, click here!

PPS: For what we’ve been up to since ICLMG was created in 2002, check out our Achievements page!