Bill C-51 Backgrounder #2: Extraordinary New CSIS Powers

Kent Roach and I have now posted our new backgrounder on bill C-51's affect on the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS).  If bill C-51 passes, CSIS will be expressly authorized to “take measures, within or outside Canada, to reduce” very broadly defined “threats to the security of Canada”. Where authorized by Federal Court warrant, these “measures” may “contravene a right or freedom guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” or may be “contrary to other Canadian law”.

Our background paper has two primary sections. In part I, we lay the factual foundation, describing what Bill C-51 (and the earlier Bill C-44, now before the Senate) would do to CSIS’s powers. We raise legal doubts about these new powers, focusing first on concerns about the scope of the new powers and second on the Federal Court warrant regime. We also briefly examine the question of CSIS accountability. Here, we raise (but do not address in full) broader questions of accountability that will figure prominently in a separate paper on this topic.

In part 2, we name and briefly discuss a number of administration of justice and operational quandaries we see as possibly arising in relation to the new powers.

To read our full analysis, visit the download site at SSRN (Social Science Research Network).  (We have made this paper immediately available for download — the watermarked note on the SSRN page will appear during the period in which SSRN catalogues our uploaded file into its holdings.)

For ease of reference, you may also find useful to review our consolidated version of the CSIS Act, incorporating bill C-44 and bill C-51 amendments.

All of our backgrounders are archived at an index site,