National Security Bill C-59 is better than the bill that came before – but not perfect

  • February 21, 2018

Almost two years after his appearance before a Parliamentary committee arguing on the CBA’s behalf against the passage of the Conservatives’ controversial Bill C-51, Peter Edelmann returned to Ottawa at the beginning of February to present the CBA’s submission on the Liberals’ Bill C-59.

While in opposition the Liberals announced they would vote in favour of the Conservatives’ Anti-Terrorism Act, but would repeal parts of it once elected. Bill C-59, the National Security Act, 2017, is the result.

This sweeping bill creates or amends a number of statutes, aimed at bringing in a more transparent and fair national security system that respects the need for privacy, to not have personal information collected and shared indiscriminately, and promoting the right to travel without undue interference from the state, among others.

The CBA submission in response to Bill C-59 is every bit as sweeping as the Act itself. It comments on everything from the definition of “activity that undermines the security of Canada” to the bill’s failure to address the lack of a judicial review process for people denied permission to travel under the Secure Air Travel Act. It was prepared with input from the Criminal Justice, Immigration Law, Charities and Not-for-Profit, Military and Privacy and Access Law Sections.

Several of the provisions in the bill correspond to CBA recommendations over the years – for example, the CBA has recommended establishing a body like the planned National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, which will be responsible for the broad review of the national security infrastructure.

And while Bill C-59 addresses many of the concerns the CBA expressed about Bill C-51, it does not do so entirely to the Association’s satisfaction, and the Association’s submission also enumerates the areas where it believes the bill falls short of what is necessary to correct the overreach of the earlier bill.

The overarching message in this CBA submission, as in earlier submissions on Bill C-51, is that there’s a way to balance citizens’ rights to privacy with the state’s need for security – one needn’t be sacrificed to serve the other. 

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