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The House of Commons Public Safety Committee is tasked with scrutinizing Bill C-26, which has been criticized for undermining privacy, judicial due process, and accountability

Toronto, ON — We can address Canada’s cybersecurity needs, while upholding our rights and freedoms. That’s the message to MPs from Canadian civil society organizations and experts, who are today publishing detailed recommendations for fixing the federal government’s controversial cybersecurity legislation, Bill C-26.

Last fall, the same groups published a joint letter warning that Bill C-26 was “deeply problematic and must be fixed,” highlighting the risk it posed to privacy rights, accountable governance and judicial due process. The recommendations in the package published today tackle these concerns, while ensuring Canada’s cybersecurity defences get a much-needed upgrade.

Bill C-26 recently passed 2nd Reading in the House of Commons, following a robust debate in which MPs from across the political spectrum expressed concern about its impact on civil liberties. It now passes to the Commons Public Safety & National Security Committee for detailed scrutiny.

“We were encouraged to hear our concerns reflected by MPs from across the political spectrum throughout Bill C-26’s 2nd Reading debate,” states the introduction to the group’s package of recommended remedies, noting that the ideas put forth by group members are designed to “ensure Bill C-26 delivers strong cybersecurity for everyone in Canada, while ensuring accountability and upholding our rights.”

Many of the recommended remedies reflect the findings of Dr. Christopher Parsons’ report Cybersecurity Will Not Thrive in Darkness, published by the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto in October 2022. The recommended remedies address civil liberties concerns by:

  1. Restraining Ministerial Powers
  2. Protecting Confidential Personal & Business Information
  3. Maximizing Transparency
  4. Allowing Special Advocates to Protect the Public Interest
  5. Enhancing accountability for the Communications Security Establishment

The groups and individuals endorsing this remedy package are: the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Constitution Foundation, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, Ligue des Droits et Libertés, the National Council of Canadian Muslims, OpenMedia, the Privacy and Access Council of Canada, Professor Andrew Clement, and Dr Brenda McPhail.


Media Contacts:

Rosa Addario, Communications Manager, OpenMedia

1.888.441.2640 ext. 0

Alex Nanoff, Media Relations, CCLA

Quotes from Civil Liberties Organisations:

“It’s crucial that Parliament strike an appropriate balance between the need for security on the one hand and the need to respect well-established constitutional rights to liberty and privacy on the other hand. The recommended remedies will help lawmakers to enact a constitutionally valid, while still effective legislative regime.” – Joanna Baron, Executive Director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation

“For over two decades, Canadian Muslims have disproportionately experienced harmful impacts when privacy rights are not adequately protected, judicial due process is not consistently upheld, and accountability of national security agencies is not properly addressed. This legislation is needed to enhance our country’s cybersecurity, but a better balance needs to be struck to protect Canadians’ constitutional rights. The recommendations we are making in cooperation with other civil liberties groups can help us find that balance.“ — Stephen Brown, CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims

“As written, Bill C-26 puts the privacy and personal information of everyone in Canada at risk. Nobody  should have to sacrifice their basic rights for the cybersecurity protections we all deserve. These recommendations show that we can strengthen cybersecurity, while upholding the rights and freedoms we hold dear. We hope MPs listen carefully, and fix this deeply-flawed legislation.” — Matthew Hatfield, Campaigns Director, OpenMedia

“Canada deserves both cybersecurity and robust protections for individual rights. We need amendments to C-26 that will repair the bill, ensuring that due process, transparency, accountability, effective oversight, and privacy rights become essential parts of Canada’s national security framework.” — Daniel Konikoff, Interim Director, Privacy, Technology & Surveillance, Canadian Civil Liberties Association

“This bill mandates extensive information sharing with multiple parties on demand, yet fails to anticipate collateral privacy impacts. While trade secrets are designated as confidential information that cannot be shared with foreign states, the personal information of people in Canada is not. There’s an obvious fix required.” — Dr. Brenda McPhail

“Allowing elected representatives or unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats the degree of power that Bill C-26 does is an assault on democracy and a clear and present danger to Canadians’ freedom, privacy, and autonomy.” — Sharon Polsky, President of the Privacy and Access Council of Canada

Quotes from House of Commons 2nd Reading Debate:

“We have been very clear that our intentions with this bill and others are to protect those freedoms and that privacy of Canadians. Therefore, that will be the underlying theme of our approach, certainly to this bill during the committee process and in the days and weeks to come.” – Raquel Dancho MP, Conservative Party Shadow Minister for Public Safety [Hansard]

“We rely on these essential services, and their protection is important, but Bill C-26, as it is currently written, would give the executive branch huge sweeping powers. In my reading of the bill, there would not be enough accountability and oversight; there would not be enough review mechanisms for Parliament to check the power of the executive, and I think this is a critical point.” – Alastair MacGregor MP, former NDP Public Safety critic [Hansard]

“I would like to take these final moments to talk about the concerns voiced by certain groups. Professor Christopher Parsons of the University of Toronto said that the bill was so imperfect that authoritarian governments around the world could cite it to justify their own repressive laws. That is a worrisome statement.” – Kristina Michaud MP, Bloc Quebecois Public Safety Critic [Hansard]

About the Canadian Civil Liberties Association

The CCLA is an independent, non-profit organization with supporters from across the country. Founded in 1964, the CCLA is a national human rights organization committed to defending the rights, dignity, safety, and freedoms of all people in Canada.

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