“Canadians should not be complacent about giving radical new powers to national security agencies, especially when C-59 has been pitched as a ‘fix’ of the old law." — Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Ottawa (05 April 2018) — “National security must not be used as an excuse to undermine the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). “Many of the problems with the Conservative's Bill C-51 remain in the Liberal's Bill C-59,and we are telling the government that it is critical that they get this right.”
Bill C-59 was explicitly introduced with the claim that it fixes “the problematic aspects” of its predecessor, Bill C-51 — now Canada’s Anti-terrorism Act, 2015
A group of civil society organizations and individual experts expressed concerns in an open letter that C-59 does not truly fix all of the problems with our current national security law, and that it has introduced some very serious new issues.
Still time to amend Bill C-59
The bill was referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU) after first reading, which leaves open the possibility for amendments. NUPGE stands with those calling for the problems in Bill C-59 to be addressed before it becomes law. The federal government needs to protect national security while firmly and unequivocally upholding human rights.
This can be done. There is consensus amongst civil liberties and human rights organizations, which is expressed in the statement, about some of the most troubling aspects of Bill C-59.
What needs to be fixed?
The concerns focus on:
- the bill’s empowerment of our national security agencies to conduct mass surveillance
- the practical impossibility of an individual effectively challenging their inclusion on the no-fly list
- the authorization of Canada’s signals intelligence agency, CSE, to conduct cyber attacks.
Particularly troubling is the low threshold that has been set to allow mass surveillance through collection of bulk data and the loose rules around these powers. Another concern relates to the no-fly list, which continues to harm the rights of those people who end up on the no fly list only because they have the same name as someone listed. Disruption powers include given to the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) are also cited in the statement. Disruption powers include giving the CSE the power to hack, deploy malware and ‘disinformation campaigns’ against foreign individuals, states, organizations or terrorist groups. These new powers are dangerous as they normalize these functions within the CSE and escalate the use of these techniques when the world should be trying to curtail such measures.
“Canadians should not be complacent about giving radical new powers to national security agencies, especially when C-59 has been pitched as a ‘fix’ of the old law,” said Brown. ‘Yes, this bill addresses some concerns from the old law, but we stand with those in saying that much more work needs to be done before this becomes law.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE