October 31, 2014
Introducing The Protection of Canada From Terrorists Act
On October 27th, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney tabled Bill C-44, “The Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act”. Among other changes, this Bill introduces the first legal amendments to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, since it was first introduced in 1984.
Touted as Canada’s new anti-terrorism legislation, C-44 expands the power of CSIS beyond Canadian borders and offers greater protections to CSIS informants. Section 3 explicitly confirms that CSIS may “perform its duties and functions” and conduct “investigations” within or outside of Canada.
Section 8(2) clarifies that a judge may issue a warrant authorizing activities outside of Canada to investigate a threat to Canadian security, “without regard to any other law, including that of any foreign state”. Interestingly, this codifies the legal right to gather intelligence in other countries, even if this is in violation of the other country’s own laws.
Section 7 further prohibits the disclosure of CSIS sources in various types of proceedings, with a view to ensuring “that the identity of human sources is kept confidential in order to protect their life and security and to encourage individuals to provide information to the Service”.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper indicated that Canadian legislation to combat terrorism would be “expedited” following the recent attacks on members of the Canadian Armed Forces at Ottawa’s War Memorial and in Quebec last week. Bill C-44 is only the beginning, as Minister Blaney confirmed that additional legislation is forthcoming. It is expected that further changes may include expanded powers for police and agencies tasked with monitoring terrorist groups and easier access to preventative arrests.
It will be essential to follow C-44’s progress and continue to examine new measures introduced. Critics warn against a hasty response, given the complexity of incorporating changes to Canada’s security landscape. This is especially so, given the importance of balancing Canada’s security interests while maintaining our fundamental rights and freedoms.