What’s at stake with the government’s national security bill, C-59?

Tim McSorley
2 min readMay 29, 2019


Image courtesy OpenMedia.org

This week, senators are debating — and will likely be voting on — whether or not to pass the National Security Act, 2017, at third reading. This will put one of the largest and most impactful national security bills of the past 30 years one step closer to passing. In fact, it will just be a couple steps away from becoming law: If it goes through the Senate with current amendments, it will be reviewed again in the House of Commons. If the amendments are deemed acceptable by the government, it will go off for Royal Assent.

That is why it is imperative that Senators use this last opportunity to improve Bill C-59 in order to ensure that we have strong, effective and independent review and oversight of national security activities, and that safeguards are put in place to protect fundamental freedoms.

What are some of the areas where Senators must act?

The Liberal government has touted Bill C-59 as being a “fix” for the previous government’s controversial Bill C-51 (the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015). While it brings some important improvements, Bill C-59:

  • Continues to allow CSIS to engage in secret and dangerous threat disruption powers and will grant CSIS employees immunity for breaking certain laws in the course of their work;
  • Maintains the secretive No Fly List, which violates due process and has never been proven to be effective;
  • Grants sweeping new surveillance powers to both the CSE and CSIS, including the collection of metadata, vaguely defined “publicly available information,” and the incredibly broad category of “unselected information” (which essentially means any information);
  • Fails to prohibit the use and sharing, in all circumstances, of information linked to mistreatment and torture;
  • Will allow the CSE to engage in broad and powerful new “active cyber operations” with little oversight, creating the risk of retaliation as well as attacks from leaked new cyber-weapons.
  • Transfers some of the weaker aspects of current national security review bodies to the new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency.

The ICLMG, along with multiple other organizations, have proposed clear and workable amendments to the Senate. We know senators have seen them. So we need an extra push to get them over the finish line: write to your senators, urging them to act quickly and bring new amendments to Bill C-59, before time runs out.

National security concerns cannot come at the cost of privacy, free expression, due process and government transparency. Up until now, law-makers have missed the opportunity today to address the most egregious aspects of this bill. Help us make sure that they don’t miss it this time!

Take action and urge the Senate to protect our human rights and fix C-59



Tim McSorley

Writer, editor, researcher. Transplanted Montrealer in Ottawa. National Coordinator at International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group — iclmg.ca