National security

Canada’s anti-terrorism overhaul is coming Tuesday

Ottawa’s long-awaited reforms to Canada’s national security laws will land next week, just before Parliament takes off for a summer break.

The legislation, which is set to make substantive reforms to Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act, is slated to be introduced on Tuesday, after Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale returns from a trip to the United States, according to government sources who spoke to VICE News on background.

The Liberal government has been grappling for months with how, exactly, to tackle the reforms.

In their election platform, the party pledged to roll back contentious aspects of C-51, the previous government’s anti-terrorism legislation that provoked widespread protest and opposition.

Ottawa is considering the new powers just as its allies inches toward significant new surveillance capabilities.

Since taking power, however, the Liberals have mused about a variety of more stringent and controversial measures, from cracking down on encryption to re-crafting a legal provision that allows police to obtain the data of telecommunications customers without a warrant. Closed door meetings with current and former law enforcement officials and intelligence analysts have reinforced those positions.

But opposition to those proposals have been pronounced.

Consultations run by Goodale’s office revealed that a sizeable chunk, if not a majority, of the public, civil liberties groups, lawyers, and academics who answered the online consultations or showed up for in-person round tables took issue with virtually every proposal or idea put forward by the government.

Goodale, asked by reporters on Tuesday about the status of the legislation, promised “we’re hard at work” and hinted that he “will have something to say on that subject soon.”

Read VICE News’ past reporting about the Liberals’ move to overhaul Canada’s national security laws

Introducing the legislation so close to the summer break means it would be virtually impossible to make it law before members of Parliament head back to their ridings. That means debate and study of the bill will have to wait until the House of Commons reconvenes in September.

The Five Eyes intelligence-sharing partnership is set to meet in Canada in two weeks to discuss surveillance and decryption.

It is expected that the House of Commons will be adjourned on Wednesday. The Senate, however, will stick around until later in June, as they hurry to pass a list of outstanding legislation, including bill C-22, which will create a national security committee of parliamentarians, tasked with overseeing Canada’s various intelligence and policing agencies.

Ottawa is considering the new powers just as its allies inch toward significant new surveillance capabilities.

The Five Eyes intelligence-sharing partnership — Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom — is set to meet in Canada in two weeks to discuss surveillance and decryption.

Australia’s Attorney General George Brandis said Tuesday that his government believes existing laws “don’t go far enough” and that forcing decryption standards onto businesses in Australia should be on the table. Brandis will be representing his government in Canada at the meeting.

In Europe, newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, campaigned on introducing legal limitations on encryption across France, while UK Prime Minister Theresa May — bolstered by right-wing Irish unionists — has similarly pledged to ramp up the fight against homegrown terror, just years after her party introduced significant new online surveillance powers.

In the United States, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has openly mused about targeting secure communication applications that have become popular worldwide in recent years.

Details of the meeting have yet to be released.

 

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