prism privacy by Eric Slatkin (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

prism privacy by Eric Slatkin (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Why The Anti-Terrorism Bill is Really an Anti-Privacy Bill: Bill C-51’s Evisceration of Privacy Protection

“The first and main concern is the privacy issue…since the information is to be shared by different levels of government and different governmental bodies. There is a risk that privacy can be compromised. The more information is transferred and shared, the greater the risk of security of the information.

Nearly twenty years ago, that was Stephen Harper, then a Reform Party MP warning against the privacy implications of an electronic voter registry and the fear that information sharing within government raised significant privacy concerns. Today, there is a very different Stephen Harper, who as Prime Minister is fast-tracking a bill that eviscerates privacy protections within the public sector and is even blocking the Privacy Commissioner of Canada from appearing as a witness at the committee studying the bill.  Much of the focus on Bill C-51 has related to oversight: the government implausibly claims that it increases oversight (it does not), the Liberals say they support the bill but would like better oversight, and much of the NDP criticism has also centered on oversight. Yet with respect to privacy and Bill C-51, lack of oversight is only a part of the problem.

Last month, I wrote about the disastrous privacy consequences of the bill. The focal point was Bill C-51′s Security of Canada Information Sharing Act (SCISA), a bill within the bill, that goes far further than sharing information related to terrorist activity. It does so in three simple steps. First, the bill permits information sharing across government for an incredibly wide range of purposes, most of which have nothing to do with terrorism. The government has tried to justify the provisions on the grounds that Canadians would support sharing information for national security purposes, but the bill allows sharing for reasons that would surprise and disturb most Canadians. Second, the scope of sharing is remarkably broad, covering 17 government institutions with the prospect of cabinet expansion to other departments as well as further disclosure “to any person, for any purpose.” Third, oversight is indeed a problem as the Privacy Act is already outdated and effectively neutered by the bill.

Professors Craig Forcese and Kent Roach offer a detailed examination of the privacy implications of the massive expansion of government sharing of information. In recent weeks, all privacy commissioners from across the country have spoken out. For example, Privacy Commissioner of Canada Daniel Therrien, appointed by the government less than a year ago and described as an expert by Prime Minister Harper, rightly slams the bill:

the scale of information sharing being proposed is unprecedented, the scope of the new powers conferred by the Act is excessive, particularly as these powers affect ordinary Canadians, and the safeguards protecting against unreasonable loss of privacy are seriously deficient.  While the potential to know virtually everything about everyone may well identify some new threats, the loss of privacy is clearly excessive.  All Canadians would be caught in this web.

The end result?

As a result of SCISA, 17 government institutions involved in national security would have virtually limitless powers to monitor and, with the assistance of Big Data analytics, to profile ordinary Canadians, with a view to identifying security threats among them. In a country governed by the rule of law, it should not be left for national security agencies to determine the limits of their powers. Generally, the law should prescribe clear and reasonable standards for the sharing, collection, use and retention of personal information, and compliance with these standards should be subject to independent and effective review mechanisms, including the courts.

The Privacy Commissioner – who the government is now blocking from appearing before the committee studying the bill – offers many recommended reforms that would address overbroad sharing and build in much-needed oversight and safeguards.

All provincial privacy commissioners have offered a similar analysis, jointly calling on the government to withdraw the information sharing aspects of the bill. They also warn of routine surveillance of large portions of the population:

It could be used to  authorize, in effect, surveillance across governments in Canada, and abroad, for virtually unlimited purposes. Such a state of affairs would be inconsistent with the rule of law in our democratic state and contrary to the expectations of Canadians.

David Flaherty’s examination of the history of the Privacy Act in Canada emphasized the weakness of the law well before Bill C-51. He noted that it is already regarded as “highly inadequate for the needs of the 21st century.” Yet rather than address decades-old issues with the Privacy Act, the government is proposing to eviscerate it by opening the door to widespread sharing of information across government departments and beyond with few limits or safeguards. Indeed, Bill C-51’s information sharing provisions likely represent the most significant reduction in public sector privacy protection in Canadian history.


  1. The arrest on Wednesday of a man accused of plotting a terrorist attack in Toronto is yet another example that police already have more than adequate authority to conduct investigations into threats.

    Moreover, it is ample proof that the real purpose of C51 is [a] to serve as a wedge issue in the fall election campaign, a “Southern strategy” that enables Mr. Harper to campaign on “you’re either with us or you are with the terrorists” which plays well with his base, and [b] to strip the last vestiges of what little privacy we have from the life of ordinary Canadians.

    As it is doing this, once courts begin striking down provisions of the law for being in violation of the Charter, it also gives Mr. Harper an excuse to continue his unseemly attacks on the judiciary – assuming he is still in power come November.

    As an example, which you haven’t cited in your blog, while C51 says it does not apply to “lawful protest,” many protest marches and demonstrations are designed to be unlawful by blocking roads, access to businesses or government offices, and so on. The way C51 is written, and no doubt will be interpreted by the secret police, is that since people may be arrested for, say, laying down on a sidewalk in a protest, they can then conduct a sweeping investigation into their lives.

    We will all end up on a watch list somewhere.

    • You really think protesters should be allowed to block people from going to work or school.

      • I don’t think that is what he is claiming. He is saying that rather than simply detaining and removing the protestors, C-51 licences law-enforcement to conduct sweeping and indefinite investigations into those people they’ve identified as “unlawful protestors”.

        Protests, by their nature, must be disruptive – if they aren’t, then they’re failing in their basic objective. To criminalize, rather than simply disallow (this is an important distinction) that disruption neuters the basic principles behind civil disobedience.

        • There is a difference between being disruptive and blocking someone who goes to school or work for days.

          • jayme, yes there’s a difference, but I think you’re barking up the wrong tree. There is a SIGNIFICANT difference between being disruptive and being considered (or politically labelled) a “terrorist” for simple civic disobedience.

            Before you object, consider that such parallels have been drawn several times in US media; Simple acts being labelled “terrorism” because of political points, fear mongering, etc.

            During the Toronto G20 conference I worked inside the fenced “protection” zone. It was viscerally unsettling, as an average citizen, to feel so afraid of those who should “serve and protect”. C-51 would see my entire life ripped open and every single aspect of it put under (politically motivated) scrutiny if only I were to cross the street at the wrong time to go get a coffee. I REFUSE to live in such fear.

    • Craig Scott says:

      All I see in your comment is a bunch of unfounded paranoia. We’ll all end up on a watch list, for laying down on a sidewalk? Any evidence of this kind of behaviour? Critics are saying that CSIS is already spread too think and I don’t believe they’re going to have the time or desire to conduct sweeping investigations into every Tom. Dick and Harry that is involved in a protest. I do find a lot of the wording in this bill somewhat vague and hopefully there will be some find tuning. However,all the protestations with references to southern style politics and Hitler and Communism is way over the top. I know that everyone loves to say “George W Bush” as often as possible, because I guess it sounds cool. It seems to me that those that oppose the bill are afraid that the cops will have an unfair advantage over the bad guys. I for one applaud Mr. Harper’s war on the judiciary, as you call it. I’m tired of judges slapping criminals on the wrist and finding any excuse available to place the rights of the perpetrator above those of the victim. C-51 needs some work but I would wager that most Canadians are in favour of it. The paranoic claims that we’ll all be dragged off the streets and taken to work camps are psychotic at the least. History shows that our law forces turn a blind eye to most protests and bend over backwards to allow the lawbreakers to do as they please.

      • The part you mention of CSIS being spread too thin is what gets me nervous. What this is going to mean is that there is going to be a lot of work into writing scripts for computers to automate the process. These digital sleugths will have access to unpresidented amount of information. With that unpresident there is also going to be a higher probablility of having false-positives, and with that the possibility of being falsely implicated.

        To be live with the knowledge that these algorithms could automatically place you on a no fly list until someone has a chance to verify the truthfulness is a scary thought; but it will be something that they’ll have to do because as you stated, there is no way that one individual might know that someone is involved in a protest, but you can all but guarantee there will be a time in which “every” action a Canadian does will be automatically analysed for possible flagging.

  2. My wife is now dealing with the Justice Department Of Canada again, it has been a year for her also trying to get her information. She is doing better than I am at getting her information. They are trying to get her to deal with them electronically instead of with paper correspondence but we think it’s just a stall tactic, they are trying to convince her to deal with the provincial Justice Department Of BC instead of them. It seem strange that they want to deal with digital documents instead of paper after the Tony Clement fiasco in the media. They will probably put all her information under the control of CSIS like they did with mine. She has never had a criminal record in her life and she has never broken any laws ever. Something we think is strange is that she has had a few credit checks done on herself lately for purchasing purposes and her credit record has been wiped out. No company is able to get a credit check on her. They tell us that is very strange because the say they never seen no one without a credit history and we know she has one. She has had loans and credit cards.

    Christy Clark know about the abuse our family has been through and Steven Blaney knows also. I posted the emails here they don’t want to help us at all and Steven Blaney won’t even give us a reply. This government is so crooked. Their ship is sinking and they are grasping at anything that will help them cover up the dirt they created. Follow the money.

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  4. privacy, property and freedom of info;

    privacy is NOT a property right here in canada; I AM watching the money trail tho; opeb data banks + money makers, managment decesions, etc.
    they WILL shoot themselves in the foot sooner or later; then make a special class of citizen with advanced info rights. (prop’ly)

  5. Here’s one point that has to be made: the Lac Megantic explosions killed nearly two dozen times as many people as the terrorist attacks against Canadian soldiers in Quebec and the National Capital Region. Lac Megantic was 100% the cause of the policies of industry-captive Tory and Liberal governments (rail car safety, etc.). But, under C-51, protesting something like the carriage of dangerous cargoes through populated areas could result in charges of ‘terrorism,’ if local authorities won’t grant a permit. Justin Trudeau once mused about how efficient things are in China, without pesky protests to deal with–a position quietly echoed by Stephen Harper. C-51 WILL be used by governments at all three levels, to stifle civic opposition, as in China.

    • I do think there are issues with this bill but the country has to takes threats serious they should never down play them.

  6. This is so frustrating. Doubly so because the 3 major parties all support this blatant invasion of privacy. It really shows the farce that passes for democracy these days. The people in power love having more power.

    You mean to tell me that the police and RCMP cannot find a means to arrest someone who commits a crime? The only way to catch criminals these days is to assume everyone is one and be able to spy on them just to be sure? Do none of them read history? The state should serve the people, not spy on them. This kind of thing will never end well.

  7. Dave Turchynsky says:

    We won’t need to fear the police. We’ll be too busy fearing our neighbour. That’s just the way the New Canadian Gestapo wants it.

  8. Pingback: Geist: Why The Anti-Terrorism Bill is Really an Anti-Privacy Bill: Bill C-51′s Evisceration of Privacy Protection | Reddit Spy

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  10. Atilla Garay B.Sc.M.E says:

    Hmmm? Suppose that Stephen Harper and proponents for pipelines derail trains and cause explosions killing dozens of Canadians to convince other Canadians that pipelines are ‘safer’ AND good for the economy and jobs (but more likely only for those with the contracts). Secondly, RCMP, CSIS, and CSES already guilty of privacy infractions and far more serious infractions that simply went underground with civilian and government agents after McDonald Commission shut down RCMP Security Services in late ’70’s. Now suppose crooked cops and government agents of second go looking into first; not going to be hard to find the dirt- just follow the money. So now we have the case of crooked cops and government agents looking into said crooked government in power. That is some major leverage! So! Wouldn’t it just be grand if said crooked cops and government agents strike up a deal with said crooked government in power to make all their dirt go away if they simply fast track a certain bill C-51 through the House of Commons.
    Now, is there something wrong with this picture? How far will corruption like this be furthered by passing a Bill so short sighted as this bill C-51? Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely!

  11. Michael, I’m not sure I understand the image above the article.
    The picture, about us having zero privacy, isn’t the point.

    If all of the information that is going to be shared was all available, to EVERYONE, then we could see what is being recorded about us, and we would have opportunities to either correct or rebut the information.
    The biggest problem with the sharing isn’t the violation of privacy, but the risk of Kafka-like incorrect information. The point is that governments will share (potentially incorrect) information about me, without my knowledge.
    I won’t even know what they are sharing, and I will no opportunity to confront my accuser.

  12. Ron Ketchum says:

    This bill is introduce to inform the governments who is against the New World Order. Terrorism scare tactic to push the bill through.

  13. Bill C-51 will legalize the sharing of personal information and data with the five eyes nations, specifically the United States. This Bill will allow the backdoor sharing of information that is currently illegal in ALL five eyes nations. Namely, spying on their own citizens. With this Bill the CSIS and the government can simply ask the NSA for their Internet treasure trove of private information and that’s that.
    The government can do what ever it damn well pleases so long as it’s legal and has judicial oversight. Without a warrant process that Bill will become a plague on citizen privacy.

  14. You can always cancel your Internet & smart Phones and go back to snail mail… Help support Canada post… they need funding!

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  16. C-51 DOES NOT GO FAR ENOUGH…………..

    • C-51 DOES NOT GO FAR ENOUGH…………..

      • You my friend I think are wanting something more like a communist outlook, where big brother knows all and at the same time tells you exactly what to do and when to do it.

        Try to remember everyone, even a saint (read the bible) has something that they would prefer to be personal, as it is a right, god given, and not to taken away, by anyone.

  17. My wife and I are trying to get our investigation information from the RCMP so we can sue them for the murder of our 2 daughters over the fradulent terror investigation they done on us. We asked them for all the investigation information they have on us. We just got a reply from them today and they said they have to know what specific RCMP detachment we need our information from because they say that their units are autonomous and they need to know the specific one or else they can’t find our information. I guess RCMP detachments don’t share terror investigation information among themselves. Something else we think if strange is our website is no longer getting international visitors. Since we started our website we got most of our visitors from international countries like Europe and Eastern Europe, Asia and Southern Asia, South and Central America, everywhere around the world. Now our visitors are from THE FIVE EYES countries only, for some reason we are being blocked internationally. I guess BILL C-51 must of took effect already.

  18. I am surprised that not one poster or the author of the blog has stated the direct comparison to the US of A. That being, after 9-11 the US government instituted the homeland security branch. Which in context was given the same authority (and then some) as what Bill C51 proposes to do.

    Now I am not paranoid of being monitored by the government here in Canada, but I don’t like it…in fact I condemn the very thought/ action of it. But it is already is going on. At border crossings, customs offices, etc. There is already an unprecedented amount of our “personal” information being shared, within our country and even our closest neighbor, the grand USA. All at the request of that country and a reason by our government to data mine its citizens.

    The fact that homeland security in the USA already has access to some of the most vital personal information of any Canadian trying to cross the border, conduct business in, or be affiliated in any way should be enough to scare the average Canadian about the passing of Bill C51. Not to mention the sharing of that same info with other countries, which like the USA have no reason to even request it, as it will only increase that information to include other data, such as a bad keystroke on the search engine that gets a flagged word search pop up by mistake. I wouldn’t be surprised in fact that due to the USA security watchdogs monitoring the internet (for the whole world) that this blog, and the ip address of all that post (mine included) are being recorded.

    A man once said “information is power”(J. Edgar Hoover), followed by, “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. If any 1 Canadian can say the government does not already have enough power, or information, to function, then I encourage them to vote yes and support bill C-51, I think they are in for a rude wake up call.

  19. Myron Kuziak says:

    Bill C-51: On the Road to Totalitarianism

    The US experience, as well as the Canadian, reveals that in times of stress (and in the US, wherever there are un- or under-employed minorities, ALL THE TIME), the police serve their ‘real’ historical function, i.e, to intimidate and suppress everyone who is not clearly a member of the ruling or governing group. If that sounds like a Marxist point of view, well, then Marxists must be somewhat more politically aware of the real world and suffer less from magical or romantic delusions than many others do. That is not to say that Marxists in power and control do not behave like totalitarian dictatorial rulers. They do. After all, they are always right, aren’t they? But I digress.

    The upshot of this is that I believe Harper’s Bill C-51 law is designed and intended to facilitate police intimidation and suppression of the public. Just in case one might argue that Harper and crew are merely over-enthusiastic, mistaken, deluded, confused and just reacting out of an exaggerated fear of terrorism, one is, and governments should be, in law, expected and required to realize the consequences of his actions and, in the absence of proof to the contrary, to intend the normal results of those actions. That is not a very high standard.

    Because well over 150 years of experience reveals that police and other similar persons with arms, power and authority, will always use whatever power and authority is available to them, and will always push the boundaries further where they can get away with it, and because no matter what they do, from assaults to killings, the courts and governments almost always find ways to excuse or ignore their behaviour, we can be certain Bill C-51 powers will be abused rather than be applied with care and discretion in favour of the public.

    Just in case any reader might assume I am just an ignorant person talking through my hat, I do actually have some credentials bearing on this subject. I was a barrister and solicitor, and a provincial court judge, and have taught the History of Policing at the University of Regina School of Human Justice. For what that is worth.

    Bill C-51 is a bad set of laws for the ordinary citizen.

  20. name withheld says:

    I can understand the leftist critique of C-51, but to be perfectly frank, the greater danger probably lies in handing this legislation over to a leftist government. Any conservative who thinks this is good legislation needs to do a serious rethink. Six months into a Liberal government, the main emphasis of this legislation could be totally different from what is being discussed at this point. The NDP say they would either repeal it or change it substantially. I have to hope they are right, because I would also not like to be subjected to a New Democratic government that has C-51 at its disposal.

    If you don’t get what I am hinting at here, think about this — in some minds, opposition to the United Nations or climate change legislation is seen as dangerous radical thought. The current government might not see it that way (at least not for a few more years, the way they are going, they might by 2020) but centre-left governments probably would. You could find CSIS prying into your personal life if you objected to any form of political correctness at all. And I will go one step further — it is quite plausible that this has already begun to happen as rogue agents or people without any oversight use the powers of CSIS or other agencies to complete freelance operations designed to disrupt the activities of conservatives.

    This is not why most of the Open Media folk are agitating against C-51. They haven’t experienced this first-hand and may not realize it has been going on for almost a decade in Canada. I hope that the parliamentary discussions broaden out into an investigation of what has already been happening, totally unrelated to Islamic terrorism, but using these broad sweeping powers to attempt to disrupt and destroy the lives of people whose only “crimes” are thought crimes where they make public statements that criticize various parts of the political correctness agenda. That is an agenda towards which the current government shows ambivalence, but not everyone in positions of power in Canada is a government supporter. Some may be working towards objectives that are not those of any elected government. This is all well and good when it is confined to advocacy, but when it involves covert activity, enemies lists and other activities similar to those of the former East German Stasi (the best example, I believe), then it is highly unconstitutional and illegal. Yet it has been dismissed as no big problem — what I am trying to say here is that C-51 is not just a danger for the future, the mentality is already at work and far more dangerous than many might imagine.

    I have with-held my name due to concerns about my personal security.

    • Myron Kuziak says:

      “the greater danger probably lies in handing this legislation over to a leftist government”

      It is heartening to know that there are some people who recognize the dangers of Bill C51, especially in a country like Canada, where, as ‘name withheld’ worries, political correctness and leftist thinking is so widespread.

      Just in case one fails to understand leftists’ approaches to social issues, please recall that the revered Tommy Douglas was, at one time, enamoured of Eugenics theories and ideas calling for state intervention against the retarded and other unfortunates, theories adopted with great enthusiasm by Hitler and the German NAZIs and used against those they deemed ‘undesirable’, i.e., Jews, gypsies, upstart workers (unions), the retarded and mentally ill, etc. Leftists, like fundamentalist cults of all sorts (I include most religions in this category), are so convinced of their righteousness and correctness, that they view opponents as not only misguided, but either evil or mentally ill. Anything is then fair game for suppression of such opponents.

      It used to be that conservatives were often staunch supporters of civil liberties notions, but somehow they have lost their way and understanding of the anti-liberty forces that abound in the political forest.

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  22. What you guys are saying is so true, I have a mental disability and Canadian Intelligence tried to set my wife and I up as patsies to get the fraudulent 30-08 warrants to legally expand their powers outside Canada. They used our 2 daughters undercover to move back home with us and they wanted them to set us up. Our 2 daughters warned us about what Canadian Intelligence wanted them to do before they moved out. We have always been a close family, our 2 daughters were in college and university, one in Windsor Ontario and the other in Thunder Bay Ontario. We have not heard from our 2 daughters since 2009. They disappeared off the face of the earth. Their profiles on line are from 2008 and they used to live on the internet with their friends. Canadian Intelligence threatened me and my family when they realized our daughters told us about the setup. They told us they could murder us at any time and make it look like an accident or a suicide and that no one would ever believe us. A stranger told us our daughters have been murdered. They are nowhere to be found. We always kept in touch and we haven’t been able to find them anywhere and their friends don’t know what happened to them either. We have been poisoned and assaulted and kick out of numerous cities and they tried to murder us also. The police won’t help us. The government won’t help us, we have tried every government party. The government and the police are denying us our information under the freedom of information act, we have been trying over a year now. We have been to every major news outlet and no one is brave enough to report our story. The get scared when we tell them. We have been monitored by Canadian Intelligence for over 5 years now and they still have an apartment below us just down stairs from us. Canadian Intelligence forced us to live in a hotel room for 5 years with my wife and 3 kids, they get us kicked out of any place they don’t want us to live. They have even threatened my children with death and have tried to run them over on the streets. They control where we live because they have been dealing with our landlords now for over 5 years. Some of our landlords have told us. They have had our apartments bugged for over 5 years now. The good agents have told us what is going on over the years and one agent that was honest with us and offered to help us was murdered. Kathy Liknes, her husband and grandchild. They have some patsy they are trying to blame that on. We can’t afford or secure legal representation, they keep blocking us from getting free legal representation. The Law Society Of BC and The Justice Department tried to get us to sign a waiver waving them of any responsibility for what they have done to us over the fradulent 30-08 warrants.

  23. Bill c-51 is satanic only written to terrorize and devour the conscience of every single Canadian .
    Bill C-51 is itself a threat to every single Canadian! They use lies, deceptions, fear…satanic!!!
    Prey on people.
    Divide and conquer- label people however they want–turning society against itself. Arrrest anyone for anything, whatever they say , that somehow they control reality? Label people however they want for political power
    Make up stories, lie call it “public safety” Hypocrisy!
    Like all the police dramas on t.v. , designed to brutalize your conscience with fear to terrorize you and subdue you. wow? real caring?
    Most terrorism is created “false flag” a power grab! So the government can further prey and devour like wild animals , our freedoms , freedom of speech etc Arrest anyone! criminalize everything !(except themselves of course) surveil you 24 hours a day and call it safety
    They could careless for safety! the governments of the world have allowed up to 200 million to die the last 100 years.
    40,50 millions abortions
    100,000’s to die over sea the last decade and a half?
    And look at those countries we’ve invaded, they become horrible hell holes, snake pits of chaos! How many innocent people died? (the media doesn’t report that!)
    Those who support bill c-51 are sociopaths
    Your freedom, your voice, your beliefs. are trampled on. Matters of conscience, matters of faith are trampled on 24 hours a day.
    The Peace tower in Ottawa has inscribed Psalm 72 and the book of Proverbs, no where in government or media is God ever even mentioned its been witchcrafted out of peoples minds.
    And the local police already have horrible accoutabilty, the Rcmp horrible accountability! and intel agencies ?? even less.
    Surveillance planes, helicopter, spies everywhere, preying on people.
    What hypocrisy. Oppress, terrorize people, stalk and harass you…
    The only legislation needed is to protect the individual form the state.
    “Because Public safety is our no.1 concern. Keeping people safe from government radicals, radical propaganda, radical secret operatives.
    If you don’t uphold God, truth, freedom liberty then themselves are the real threat .
    Bill C-51 what hypocrisy
    Bill C-51 is a threat to every single Canadian who has a conscience