March 2015 E-bulletin – Special Edition Bill C-51

March 12, 2015
Many of you have asked, “what does the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) think about Bill C-51?” I am writing today to share our work with you.
CCLA is very concerned about the impact Bill C-51 will have on ordinary, law abiding Canadians. We have been working relentlessly to get the message out, about the serious concerns we have about Bill C-51, and about our concerns over this Bill being rushed into law.

In fact, this is the most significant overhaul of national security legislation since 2001. At that time, there were 19 days of hearings in Committee which allowed 80 expert witnesses to be heard. Now, there are only eight days for Canadians to express their opinion about this legislation (and one of these is designated solely for government)
. CCLA is preparing written submissions to the Parliamentary Committee studying this bill. We will publish this on our website next week, as they will outline our concerns.

CCLA has not been quiet. We have been speaking almost daily to the media, and to public audiences to detail our concerns on the Bill and to explain why efficient security requires civil liberties and safeguards. We have spoken to national and international media, to students, to fellow lawyers and interested Canadians who call our office. We have also collaborated broadly with fellow advocate lawyers and civil society organizations to fight against Bill C-51 and for accountability and civil liberties safeguards which are prerequisites for real, effective security.

We know that the terrorist threat is real and our government needs tools to fight the threat and keep us safe. But Bill C-51 is not the answer. It is a prescription for error, and errors that our democratic society cannot afford. We know some of the mistakes due to lack of safeguards that have happened since 2001 and the lessons are that we need safeguards going forward — Bill C-51 does not heed these lessons.

Below, you can click on the various links to see what we have been doing to speak out against Bill C-51, and to stand up for our democratic rights and proven safeguards to prevent error and injustice. You will also find a link to a brief survey about Bill C-51. Whether or not the government is interested in what Canadians think about the proposed legislation, CCLA wants to hear from you.

We at CCLA will continue our work on this important issue by defending and promoting the rights of all Canadians. We welcome and need your support. Whether you read our newsletter, fill in our survey, or make a donation, we thank you.

Best regards,

Sukanya Pillay

Executive Director and General Counsel

Canadian Civil Liberties Association


Press release: CCLA responds to new anti-terror legislation

February 1, 2015 — On January 30, Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015. The Bill amends the Criminal Code, the CSIS Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and several other pieces of legislation.   Generally speaking, the Bill permits more latitude for greater information sharing between government agencies, lengthens the time for preventive detention, permits police lower thresholds for peace bonds, expands the Canadian No Fly List (i.e. Passenger Protect Program), broadens CSIS’s powers significantly, and creates new crimes that may criminalize legitimate speech.
“New laws and new powers don’t necessarily guarantee security” said Sukanya Pillay, General Counsel and Executive Director of the CCLA, “But new laws that violate constitutional rights are a prescription for mistakes, and mistakes won’t keep Canadians safer.”
Pillay questioned the necessity of the many amendments introduced by Bill C51, arguing that Canada has had strong anti-terror legislation in place, including the strong police powers under the Criminal Code. “There are still no answers as to why our existing laws and powers didn’t work – or if they didn’t work,” said Pillay, with reference to the tragic killings of two Canadian soldiers in 2014. “Canadians have a right to know precisely what failures existed in the laws that could have prevented the tragic deaths of Officer Vincent and Corporal Cirillo this past year.”
Bill C51 provides for enhanced information sharing among agencies. The CCLA has long argued that the recommendations of Justice O’Connor in the Arar Inquiry be implemented. Justice O’Connor had a series of recommendations targeting essential accountability and oversight of national security agencies, including his observation that the work of these agencies is increasingly integrated and as such, he recommended an integrated oversight process. To increase information sharing without implementing the lessons learned is folly.   Broad unchecked powers without sufficient accountability and oversight will only create future problems. click here to read the full release…

“Weak-kneed opposition lets Conservative terror bill sail through: Walkom”

February 3, 2015 — The Toronto Star
In a statement released Monday, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association asked the most trenchant question: Why are these extraordinary new security powers needed?
‘There are still no answers as to why our existing laws and powers didn’t work – or if they didn’t work,’ CCLA executive director Sukanya Pillay wrote.
She also pointed out that criminalizing something as vague as the advocacy of terrorism could have a chilling effect on academics and journalists.”   Click here to read the Toronto Star article.

“Bill C-51 would grant spy agency the power to ‘reduce the threat’ of terrorism, but tactics unclear”

 February 4, 2015 — spoke to Sukanya Pillay about CCLA’s position on Bill C-51, which grant CSIS the ability to use unclear tactics. Click here to read the article on

“Bill C-51 is not the answer”

Read Sukanya Pillay’s op-ed piece about CCLA’s position on Bill C-51 in The Huffington Post, by clicking here.

 “Forcese & Roach on Bill C-51: Judicial warrants are designed to prevent – not authorize – Charter violations”

 February 17, 2015CCLA has been working with Craig Forcese and Kent Roach, law professors and strong civil libertarians, who have been vocal about Bill C-51. Click here to read their article in the National Post.

“Anti-terror law shares information too easily, experts write”

 February 17, 2015 — The Ottawa Citizen reports how experts are warning that Bill C-51 can be used to disclose information “to any person, for any purpose”. Click here to read the article in the Ottawa Citizen.

“Bill C-51: 4 Former PMs Call For Better Intelligence Accountability”

February 19, 2015 — Several groups including Amnesty International, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the National Council of Canadian Muslims welcomed the statement. Click here to read the article in The Huffington Post.

“National Post View: We need parliamentary debate on Bill C-51”

February 23, 2015 — “Even more worrying, the bill gives new powers to Canada’s spy agencies without providing any additional oversight.”Click here to read the National Post’s full commentary.

1310News Ottawa

 February 24, 2015Sukanya Pillay discussed Bill C-51 on The Ed Hand Show.

“Alex Neve: In terrorism bills, the Canadian government goes shopping for laws”

 February 25, 2015 — “Judges will authorize CSIS action in other countries even if it violates that country’s law – any law, seemingly including their constitution. In fact they are told they should not even pay attention to local law.”Click here to read the article in the Ottawa Citizen.

Press release: Canadian rights groups decry limited Parliamentary Committee hearings for Bill C-51, proposed major national security reforms

February 26, 2015 — Rights groups across Canada reacted with alarm and deep concern to the news that the government has brought forward a motion limiting study of Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015, by the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to only four sessions of two hours each. With the first session devoted to government witnesses, including the Minister of Public Safety, this would leave only six hours for all other potential experts.
Amnesty International Canada, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, La Ligue des Droits et Libertés and the National Council of Canadian Muslims all called on the government to withdraw the motion and agree to a schedule of extensive hearings that will ensure that all relevant expertise and perspectives across the country is available to the Committee during the course of its study of Bill C-51.

“Canadians are being told they should embrace Bill C-51 without question because it will make us safer. Overlooked is that this Bill contains deeply worrying challenges to human rights protection, including the unprecedented proposition of empowering Federal Court judges to authorize violations of the Charter of Rights. To cut short the opportunity for these enormously consequential changes to be thoroughly examined is itself a grave human rights concern.”   AIex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada (English Branch)

“This is the most significant overhaul of Canadian laws dealing with national security since 2001. At that time there were 19 sessions in Committee allowing 80 expert witnesses to be heard. It has come forward without any accompanying review of existing laws, policies and resources and an analysis of where they fall short. To allow such little time for scrutiny of its provisions runs counter to the expectation Canadians have that their elected representatives will consider legislation carefully before it is adopted.” Sukanya Pillay, General Counsel and Executive Director, Canadian Civil Liberties Association

 click here to read the full release…

CCLA wants to hear what you think about Bill C-51

 The federal government has limited the number of public hearings on Bill C-51, but CCLA would like to hear what Canadians have to say.

 Please take our three question survey and let us know what you think about Bill C-51.

 click here to take the very brief survey…