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Bill C-59: More must be done to reverse the legacy of C-51

Bill C-59, intended to address the controversial measures in Bill C-51, does not go far enough.

OpenMedia has joined 40 organizations and prominent individuals from across Canadian civil society to send a joint letter to the federal government that lays out concerns with Bill C-59.

Bill C-59, an Act respecting national security matters, was introduced following last year's National Security Consultation, which received 59,000 responses including 15,596 submissions from the OpenMedia community.

Bill C-59 seeks to respond to the highly controversial national security matters in Bill C-51. It makes some meaningful and necessary improvements to Canada’s national security regime, but falls short of reversing the legacy of Bill C-51.

The signatories all share the concern that — despite the message clearly delivered by Canadians during the federal government’s extensive public consultation on national security — the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Charter are still not where they belong, at the core of Canada’s national security framework.

As noted by our friends at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the signatories also identify a number of specific aspects of Bill C-59 which we agree 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.

In addition, Laura Tribe, executive director of OpenMedia said:
"Now that Parliament is returning, we are eager to see the government commit to improving the reforms bought about in Bill C-59, in line with the concerns expressed by Canadians throughout the government's own consultation. In particular, we need to see mass surveillance devices such as Stingrays and extensive information sharing provisions addressed, as well as legislative protections for encrypted communication technologies."

The full letter can be read below:


Bill C-59 will be near the top of MPs’ agenda now that Parliament is sitting again, so don’t forget to send a message to your MP using this tool— public opinion has already resulted in positive change on surveillance issues, and the more people speaking out on this the more likely it is that we’ll get the genuine change we need to reverse the damaging legacy of C-51.

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