Compliance Management, Privacy

Bill C-51 widens government surveillance powers


The Canadian government has introduced Bill C-51, an "anti-terror" bill that will broaden the surveillance powers of government agencies.

The law, which is the largest revision of Canada's security laws since it responded to the 9/11 attacks, revises several other pieces of legislation, including the CSIS Act that governs the country's national intelligence service. Among the measures introduced are the right to force ISPs to remove information deemed to be promoting terrorism.

The bill also enacts two new laws: the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act.

The former empowers Canada's government institutions to share information on Canadians. These agencies range from the domestic CSIS intelligence agency and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) foreign-focused spy agency, through to the RCMP, the Canadian Border Services Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Canada's Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien responded negatively to the bill's information-sharing provisions. “It is not clear that this would be a proportional measure that respects the privacy rights of Canadians,” he said.

Therrien added that the privacy problems created by the information sharing measures could be exacerbated by gaps in the national security oversight regime.

“Three national security agencies in Canada are subject to dedicated independent oversight of all of their activities,” he said in a statement. “However, most of the organizations that would receive and use more personal information under the legislation introduced today are not.”

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