C-51 handed Canada’s spy service grotesque new powers that are unconstitutional, indefensible and unnecessary. Short of killing or sexually assaulting ‘persons of interest’ in its quest to disrupt activities deemed to be ‘dangerous’ to national security, CSIS was handed carte blanche by the Harper government. Not a good situation when, at the time, Canada — unlike the United States, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand — had no parliamentary oversight of the activities of the country’s spies.
As far as civilian oversight went, Harper starved the Security and Intelligence Review Committee of funding and never even bothered to fill a vacancy (the committee only has five members to begin with). Harper didn’t want oversight — he wanted a rubber stamp and zombie appointees. And if Arthur Porter hadn’t been accused in a kickback scheme in a Montreal hospital project, Harper’s personal choice to head up SIRC would have continued his oversight of SIRC. (As it happened, he died a fugitive from Canadian justice in a Panamanian jail.)
More importantly, the bill bore the marks of the Harperites' utter contempt for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
Basic civil rights went on the chopping block when the bill received Royal Assent in June 2015. The spy service could infringe on free speech because “promoting” terrorism was now a jailing offence. CSIS could make more arrests without warrants, even in cases where all the authorities had was the suspicion that an individual “may” carry out a terrorist act. The spy agency was no longer restricted to simply gathering intelligence, but now had the power to “disrupt” suspected terror plots. CSIS could even siphon personal information about an individual from 100 government departments, including the Canada Revenue Agency and Health Canada. And if the spooks planned to break the law or violate the Constitution, they could go before a judge in secret to get pre-approval of their illegal acts.
The Liberals said that they would hold public meetings to get input on how the bill should be changed. So far there have been no meetings.
Pierre Trudeau would be appalled.