PLG Edmonton is deeply concerned about the impact that Bill C-51 will have on public privacy and freedom of speech in Canada. The Act puts the privacy of the personal information of Canadians at risk, and could also be used as a tool to limit freedom of expression in Canada.
Despite the intention of the federal government to protect Canadians from terrorism, the bill will expand the definition of security threats to actions that threaten public safety and ‘economic or financial stability of Canada’ (Stryker and Cheung, 2015). As a result the law could be used to target civil society organizations, protest groups, and other members of the public whose actions are viewed by the government as a threat to the economy, stifling debate and discussion around topics of concern to Canadians as a result.
The bill will also allow for easier sharing of Canadians’ personal information between federal departments and foreign agencies. The justification for this is that it will help police and security forces access important information they need to thwart potential terrorist acts. However, experts do not believe that the federal government has the proper infrastructure in place to ensure that the federal government can properly fulfill its responsibilities under the new law. Canada’s Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien argues that under Bill C-51, there would be a lack of oversight and resources within his office to ensure that government agencies are not misusing this information (Beaulne-Stuebing, 2015). Canadian anti-terrorist experts Craig Forcese and Kent Roach have said that Canada’s security review infrastructure lacks the essential resources it will need to review the work of CSIS as it assumes new security responsibilities (Forcese and Roach, 2014)
The privacy commissioner also believes that the bill could prevent the government from following correct records management practices. He is concerned that as personal information is collected by various agencies, it could be retained for a longer period of time than it is needed. (Beaulne-Stuebing, 2015).
With the bill now having Royal Assent, we encourage repeal at the earliest possible juncture and demand that the federal government take into consideration the serious threats that this bill will pose to personal privacy and freedom of expression in Canada. We also encourage Canadians to remain vocal about Bill C-51 and its potential impact during the upcoming federal election campaign.
Beaulne-Stuebing, R. (23 Apr, 2015) Bill C-51 will strain my office’s resources: privacy commissioner. Retrieved from https://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/canada-politics/c-51-will-strain-my-offices-resources-privacy-215022028.html
Roach, K., Forcese, C. (2015) Canada’s Antiterror Gamble. Retrieved from:
Stryker, A., Cheung, C. (March 11, 2015) 8 things you need to know about Bill C-51. Retrieved from: