The Relationship Between Bill C-59 and Bill C-51

September 12, 2017


C-59 is a new bill on national security in Canada. It was supposed to fix the problems caused by C-51 but instead it resolves some problems, ignores others, and creates entirely new ones. 

C-59 was supposed to fix the unconstitutional changes introduced in Bill C-51, the former government’s notorious anti-terrorism law (the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015).  While the current government promised it would fix the “problematic” aspects of Bill C-51, C-59 is a much more comprehensive re-imagining of the national security landscape in Canada. It’s long, complicated, and contains a mix of issues: some of which are improvements, and others which are extremely concerning.

Its predecessor, Bill C-51, was so problematic that CCLA filed a constitutional court challenge, asking that provisions that unjustifiably violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms be deemed unconstitutional.  C-59 tries to fix some, but not all, of the problems that CCLA identified in our constitutional challenge. It improves oversight and accountability for our spy agencies, which was a serious gap in C-51. But it also creates a range of troubling new powers for our intelligence agencies, and fails to address long-term problems in Canadian national security law, like making sure a basic defence process is available to people caught up in national security proceedings. Check back here for more analysis about the relationship between C-51 and C-59 in the coming weeks.

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