National Security

CCLA rejects pitting security against human rights and civil liberties; rather, we believe that civil liberties and human rights are prerequisites for effective security and public safety, not impediments.    

The ways national security agencies are allowed to operate, in Canada and around the world, affect us. The mandates our intelligence agencies are given, the way information is collected, the way that terrorist suspects and terrorist speech are defined, and the way those suspected of terrorist offences are treated before proven guilty, matters to ordinary people. It matters because it affects our right to privacy from intrusive state powers. It matters because it affects our rights to freedom of expression and protest. It matters because it affects our rights to due process under the law. And fundamentally, it matters because it affects the nature of our relationship as citizens and residents of Canada with the government, and within our democracy.

CCLA advocates for proportionate and rights-respecting national security legislation. We fight against mass surveillance and unconstrained information sharing. We persistently call for proper oversight and accountability for national security agencies, including the Canadian Border Service Agency. We call out racial profiling and stand up for the principles of fundamental justice in an area most remarkable for its secrecy.   

Our Ongoing Case in the European Court of Human Rights

CCLA has been able to take the fight for human rights to the global scale.

CCLA is participating in this fight because we believe that laws that allow bulk collection of communications data impacts us all.

In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed the scope and reach of mass surveillance in the U.K. CCLA and our international colleagues worked together  to challenge the UK by asking the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) to examine whether the British signals intelligence agency’s was intercepting emails to and from 10 rights and liberties organizations (including CCLA), and to determine whether this was lawful or a breach of the right to privacy.

CCLA and our partners were successful in this fight and in 2014, the IPT found that UK intelligence agencies had unlawfully spied on the communications of our international colleagues.

The tribunal also found that UK intelligence sharing with the US, which had been governed under a secret legal framework, was unlawful; however the IPT ruled that these practices may comply with the UK’s human rights obligations. We disagree that this kind of mass interception can ever comply with our human rights and so we launched a case to argue that position.

On September 13, 2018, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that UK laws enabling mass surveillance do in fact violate rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

The fact that it is now possible for the state to retain private information about the population of a whole nation (or even many nations) and that retaining such information may be operationally useful, does not justify the intrusion of doing so.

Our Work in National Security


National Security and Parliament’s Role – CCLA Intervening in Ontario Case

October 3, 2023
Should our elected representatives on a committee to oversee our national security agencies have the…

CCLA’s Submission on Bill C-26 Regarding Privacy Concerns in Federal Cybersecurity Legislation

September 22, 2023
Daniel Konikoff (Interim Director of the Privacy, Technology & Surveillance program) and Tashi Alford-Duguid (Staff…

CCLA Demands Action on Facial Recognition Technology and the Growing Power of Artificial Intelligence

June 21, 2023
Toronto, ON — The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has joined the “Right 2 Your…

Civil liberties groups recommend fixes for controversial cybersecurity legislation ahead of detailed Commons scrutiny

June 20, 2023
The House of Commons Public Safety Committee is tasked with scrutinizing Bill C-26, which has…

Fix C-26: Cybersecurity Bill is Short on Rights Protections and Accountability

October 17, 2022
Bill C-26 is yet another example, in an increasingly long list, of legislation that would…

ETHI Report on Facial Recognition Technology Released

October 5, 2022
Canada lacks an appropriate legal framework to regulate facial recognition technology, and without it, there…

Joint Letter of Concern regarding Bill C-26

September 28, 2022
September 28, 2022 To: The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Public…

CCLA Calls for Moratorium on RCMP Surveillance ‘Tools’

August 9, 2022
Brenda McPhail, Director of Privacy Technology and Surveillance Program for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association,…

Oral Submissions on Bill S-7 Regarding Privacy and Device Searches at the Border

June 1, 2022
Oral Submission to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence (SECD) regarding Bill…

Phone Searches at the Border: Bill S-7 Fails to Protect Privacy

May 16, 2022
Bill S-7, introduced to provide a threshold for device searches at the border, fails to…

CCLA’s Submissions on Bill 251

May 20, 2021
On May 13, 2021, the CCLA provided written submissions on Ontario’s Bill 251, the Combating…

Open Letter to Federal Leaders: Do not Expand Anti-Terrorism Laws in Name of Anti-Racism

February 22, 2021
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…

CCLA to Attorney General: Emergency Management of the Justice Sector Now Needed

March 22, 2020
In particular, I am writing about three matters: emergency funding of provincial legal aid services;…

CCLA Joins Rights Groups Challenging Mass Surveillance In Europe

July 10, 2019
Following last year’s victory in which the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found the…

Big Brother Watch and Others v. the United Kingdom

February 14, 2019
ECHR Grand Chamber Panel Decision

Mass Surveillance INCLO Case Continues

December 11, 2018
Mass surveillance violates international privacy rights and is fundamentally incompatible with the rights to free…

CCLA, INCLO and Others Welcome Historic Win Against Mass Surveillance in UK

September 14, 2018
In a landmark win for seven INCLO members, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)…

INCLO Launches New Report: “Unanswered Questions – International Intelligence Sharing”

June 11, 2018
New report reveals lack of transparency of intelligence sharing agreements at the international level.

Read CCLA’s Submissions on Bill C-59

January 19, 2018
As a defender of fundamental human rights and civil liberties, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association…

Privacy at The Border: Committee Report Recommends Customs Act Update

December 22, 2017
Cell phones should not be considered a “good” at the border, and the Customs Act…

Ten Things You Need To Know About Bill C-59

December 12, 2017
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…

The New Communications Security Establishment Act in Bill C-59

September 12, 2017
Currently, the CSE’s role is sketched out as part of the the National Defence Act,…

Mass Surveillance and Bulk Collection in Bill C-59

September 12, 2017
One of the most insidious elements of Bill C-59 is the way it facilitates bulk…

The No-Fly List and Bill C-59

September 12, 2017
The Secure Air Travel Act (SATA) was introduced in Bill C-51 to codify the way…

Bill C-22: A Step Towards Real Accountability

June 20, 2016
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…

New Bill To Log Travellers Leaving Canada

June 17, 2016
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…

On to The Courts: Bill C-51 Passed by Senate

June 9, 2015
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is deeply disappointed that Bill C-51 (Anti-Terrorist Act, 2015)…