Canadian lawmakers expand spy agency powers

Canadian House of Commons pass controversial legislation increasing powers of country's spy agency

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Canadian lawmakers passed a legislation on Wednesday, dramatically increasing the powers and authority of the country’s spy agency Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS).

The law passed the lower chamber of the Canadian legislature House of Commons, with strong support from governing Conservative Party, despite heavy criticism from the opposition and public figures.

The legislation criminalises the promotion of terrorism, authorises spy agency to intercept and hack internet communications and transactions, makes it easier for police to arrest and detain individuals without charge and allows the CSIS to work outside Canada and make preventive operations against attacks at Canada.

Critics of the law include four former Canadian prime ministers, five justices of the Canadian Supreme Court, who have written public letters questioning the bill, celebrities and the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP).

Celebrated author Margaret Atwood criticised the bill saying it is an unprecedented assault on civil rights, overly broad and lacks oversight.

According to a recent poll by Forum Research, more than half of the Canadians oppose the enhanced national security measures, and only one-third support them.

"The threat of terrorism has never been greater," said Canadian Defence Minister Jason Kenney defending the government sponsored law.

The legislation is expected to clear votes from Canadian senate, which is dominated by the governing Conservative Party.

The opposition NDP criticised the law saying it is “vague, dangerous and won't make Canadians safer."

"It is filled with vague wording that would make it possible for the government to label virtually anything it disagreed with as harmful to Canada's national interests," said Allan Weiss, a professor of humanities at York University.

Discussions about Canadian security and intelligence services were heated following an attack at the parliament that claimed the life of  a ceremonial guard at the door in last October.

On Tuesday, French Parliament passed a similar law giving sweeping surveillance authority to French intelligence services.

The United States intelligence has also widespread surveillance and operations authorities since 2001 under the provisions of a legislation dubbed "Patriot Act."

TRTWorld and agencies