To: Government of Canada
Date: March 14, 2016
Object: Bill C – 51: The Anti – Terrorism Act 2015
Target Audience: Canadians, CSIS, Public Safety Canada, National Defence Canada, as well as any security, human rights, and information lobbyist groups.
What is important for any government is the protection of safety for its citizens especially after any horrific attacks that might have happen – at home or abroad – while trying to balance potential threats with protecting societal democratic rights. With the Bill C- 51: The Anti – Terrorism Act, 2015, its main goal was to protect Canada and Canadians “…against activities that undermine the security of Canada often transcends the mandate and capability of any one Government of Canada institution…” by sharing any information that government institutions while monitoring “concerning individuals” who may pose a threat to such security (Library of Parliament, 2015, p. 2). Also, the Bill increases the power of various departments monitor air travel, and amendments to the Canadian Security Intelligence, the Immigration and Refugee laws as well as the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC) in relation to criminal-terrorist related offences (Library of Parliament, 2015). Concerns to the reconstruction of Canada’s national security laws can be so far-reaching resulting to difficulty of understanding by the public and concerns to civil liberty association, legal and immigration officials, as well as IT and information professionals. Yet, the main question is how Bill C – 51protect Canadians does or does it infringe on their privacy?
Bill C – 51, the Anti – Terrorism Act 2015, went active once it went into Royal Assent in June 2015, and states within the preamble that the new multiple legislations are to protect Canada and Canadians “…against activities that undermine the security of Canada often transcends the mandate and capability of any one Government of Canada institution…” through the enablement of any information from 17 governmental departments and agencies to be shared for the purposes of any posed threat to security (Library of Parliament, 2015, p. 2). Yet, this allows for any shared personal information to be evaluated for “security threat” perspectives which would infringe on Canadian privacy rights (Thierren, 2015). Also, some of the 17 departments and agencies who are now affected by the Bill would generally not seen as linked to security such as Canadian Nuclear Safety, Public Health Canada and Canada Revenue Agency (Parliament Canada, 2015). Yet, it can be seen through history that these laws, as the title of Bill C – 51 shows, is mainly to deal with any manifestation of terrorism that threats Canada and to not only dealing with such threats abroad, but also, any home grown or “radicalization” within the nation which is an increasing reality. As a result, it can be “…re – examing existing legislative tools to address this reality is an entirely appropriate action to take.” (Clayton, 2015). As a result, there has been a mixture of reviews for this Bill. As discussed later on, it mostly brings concern for Charter Rights, privacy rights, and concern that there could be mistakes with false identification.
Bill C – 51 has become controversial within its problems through the security of Canada and Canadians. The first issue is with information sharing that affects Canadians privacy rights because it blocks any law or organization to have judicial resort ensuing to improper collection, use or release of their personal information. According to Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, section 5, disclosure of information is bad, yet, the “…Government of Canada institution may, on its own initiative or on request, disclose information to the head of a recipient Government of Canada institution whose title is listed in Schedule 3…if the information is relevant to the recipient institution’s jurisdiction…that undermine the security of Canada, including in respect of their detection, identification, analysis, prevention, investigation or disruption” resulting to the 17 departments with information have broadened powers to do whatever deemed fit to “protect Canadians” (Parliament of Canada, 2015; Kramp, 2015). Also, amendments within the CCC on “terrorist activity” and “s.2 of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act will be implemented bring issue if any allegation and charges are to “genuine security threats” and CSIS will be given even more powers than gathering data (Kramp, 2015).The second issue is retention periods which are not mentioned nor how to dispose of them by departments resulting to SCISA permitting these departments to know everything about everyone and keeping such information forever (Kramp, 2015). Thirdly, the concern of oversight and review mechanisms that do not allow the relevant bodies to look over the information resulting to inadequate review standards while allowing the 17 departments receiving “national security” information that would not be considered under any review committee and even an independent review body to evaluate the collected information (Kamp, 2015). Lastly, there is the infringement of Charter rights of Canadians with sections 8 (search or seizure), section 7 (Life, liberty and security of person) and section 2, b (any form of freedom expression) in the sense that CSIS with its broad powers can infringe on section 8 because judges are now allowed to become more biased and willing to give warrants, yet, with information sharing there is no need for the warrant (Department of Justice, 2016). Also, this results to infringement on Canadians security and life because their personal information can be exploited and misused linking to section 2 that people cannot make any comment that may be misinterpreted and could be used in the court of law.
There are few recommendations viewed to improve Bill C 51. Two related to sharing information standards in which information that meets such standards must be shared with the 17 agencies and are required to assess the reasonableness and proportionality of the collection and fall under “activities undermining the security of Canada”; the phrase should be reviewed and be limited to what is deemed as a real threat’s to security (Kamp, 2015). In the case of conflict between that definition and the jurisdiction of recipient institutions, it should be clarified that the former is not intended to expand the latter. The third recommendation is that on retention periods for which any personal information that does not meet a legal collections standard, then it must be thrown away; SCISA demands that any collected information should only be kept as long as necessary while the proper retention periods and decisions be maintained is essential (Kamp, 2015). The two final recommendations will look into new amendments that have explicit regulations that are to be consulted with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner before seen and implemented to ensure respect to privacy rights and easier navigation to what is deemed as a threat to security. Additionally, this would affect the 17 named departments who will be subject to review by an independent evaluation body to ensure that they abide by the Privacy Act to when dealing with the collection, use or disclosure of personal information (Kamp, 2015).
Personally, there is a need for an amendment of this Anti – Terrorist Act because of its interlink harm to Charter rights, Canadian rule of law, the function of bureaucracy and the overall health of Canada’s democracy. Also, I am concerned with the reconstruction and inclusion of 17 departments who can take any information ranging from taxes to health records to new immigrant information just to appease “activities that undermine the security of Canada” (National Post, 2015). I think an independent review body and information standards since nowhere within the Bill shows any mechanism that can adequately monitor the governments activities or awareness of information sharing and if SCISA did have a set of criteria on how to do sharing, collection, use and retention of personal information (Kamp, 2015). As Nicholas Scott state, Bill C – 51 does protect the security of Canada, yet, it is not complete when dealing with terrorists threat and there is a need for a collaboration between the 17 departments, courts and public to prioritize and fill the needs of “…funding allocations, deployment of capability-enhancing technologies, and ensuring ongoing interagency security operations coordination with appropriate reporting mechanisms for non-performance.” (2015). There is needs to find a balance of pursuit of any harm in protection of the security of Canadians, yet, if there is no change from the new government than it should be scrapped.
In conclusion, while protecting safety of Canadians, Bill C- 51: The Anti – Terrorism Act 2015 does so “…against activities that undermine the security of Canada often transcends the mandate and capability of any one Government of Canada institution…” by increasing department powers and information sharing amongst some activities. Yet, its implementation has allowed increase infringement on privacy and charter rights and harming Canadians, who may not always be aware of what is happening. It raises the issue of even keeping the Bill and how to do so through amendments or to scrape it completely before harm increases.
Department of Justice (2015). Charter or Rights and Freedoms. Retrieved from: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/const/page-15.html
Forcese, C. and Roach, K. (2015). Bill C-51: The Good, the Bad…and the Truly Ugly. The Walrus. Retrieved from: http://thewalrus.ca/bill-c-51-the-good-the-bad-and-the-truly-ugly/
Kramp, D. (2015). Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015: Submission to the Standing
Committee on Public Safety and National Security of the House of Commons. Retrieved from: https://www.priv.gc.ca/parl/2015/parl_sub_150305_e.asp
Library of Parliament (2015). Bill C-51: An Act to enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Act. Retrieved from: http://www.lop.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/LegislativeSummaries/41/2/c51-e.pdf
———————— (2015). Open Letter to Parliament: Amend C – 51 or Kill It. National Post. Retrieved from:
Newark, S. (2015). C – 51: An Analysis Without the Hype and Hysteria. MacDonald – Laurier Institute.
Retrieved from: http://www.macdonaldlaurier.ca/files/pdf/MLICommentaryNewark03-15WebReadyV4.pdf
Parliament of Canada (2015). Schedule 3: (Subsections 5(1) and 10(3)) Recipient Government of Canada Institutions and Their Heads. Retrieved from: http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=6932136&Col=1&File=221#1
Parliament of Canada (2015). Second Session, Forty0First Parliament, 62-63-64 Elizabeth II,2013-2014-2015. Statutes of Canada 2015, Chapter 2015 Act to enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts. Retrieved from: http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&DocId=8056977&File=4
Thierren, D. (2015). Statement of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada Following the Tabling of Bill C – 51. Retrieved from: https://www.priv.gc.ca/media/nr-c/2015/s-d_150130_e.asp