The Current

Former CSIS officials fear Bill C-51 opens the door to abuses

Today, we hear from a former spy, a former spy-master and a man formerly responsible for oversight, on their views of the potential uses and potential abuses of the anti-terror legislation known as C-51.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper believes the new measures in Bill C-51 have been carefully chosen to enhance security in a way that strengthens rights. But critics see very real risks posed in the new anti-terror bill. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

"And this is so important that we as politicians give them the tools to protect Canadians and this is exactly what Bill C-51 will accomplish." - Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney

As Bill C-51 goes before committee hearings on Parliament Hill, expect questions about how the government's new anti-terror legislation would change the way our spy agency, CSIS, and police forces work.

The new bill would give CSIS new powers to disrupt activities, including alleged terrorist plots. It would make it easier for government agencies to share information about their investigations. And it would lower the threshold needed to arrest someone for alleged terrorism-related activities ... all changes required to give police and spy agencies the tools they need to combat the threat of terror, according to the government.

But critics fear that Bill C-51 opens the door to abuses and needs more checks and oversight. Even people who have worked inside CSIS are divided over their views of Bill C-51.

Francois Lavigne was a CSIS agent who specialized in counter-intelligence in the 1980s. He went on to work for the Solicitor General and has since retired. He was traveling today in Zurich, Switzerland. 

Reid Morden was the Director of CSIS, from 1987 to 1991. Today he runs the security consulting firm Reid Morden and Associates.

Ron Atkey was the first chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the body that overseas CSIS. He now teaches national security law at Osgoode Hall Law School. 

Do you agree that CSIS and the police should be given the new tools contained in Bill C-51?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Gord Westmacott and Ottawa Network Producer, Tom Jokinen


♦ Former CSIS officer warns new federal anti-terror bill will 'lead to lawsuits, embarrassment' - National Post

♦ Anti-terrorism powers: What's in the legislation? - CBC News

♦ CSIS documents reveal how agency designates terrorism targets - The Globe & Mail

♦ Anti-terror bill: Experts worry about sweeping powers for CSIS - Ottawa Citizen