Government instructions to CSIS on bill C-51 to remain largely secret
A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa, Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, March 27, 2016 11:12AM EDT
OTTAWA - The federal government has issued guidance to Canada's spy agency on using contentious new anti-terrorism laws -- but most of the instructions won't be made public.
Many passages of the ministerial direction to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, issued last July, were withheld from release due to provisions of the Access to Information Act concerning security, internal deliberations and cabinet confidences.
The office of Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said ministerial offices are not involved in the processing of access requests, nor should they be.
But the federal decision to keep much of the ministerial direction under wraps did nothing to reassure those with concerns about C-51, the omnibus security bill that received royal assent early last summer.
The legislation gave CSIS the power to actively disrupt suspected terrorist plots, even allowing the spy service to take actions that breach the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as long as a judge approves.
"One of our greatest concerns with C-51 is that CSIS has been given extraordinary new powers, including the power to break the law and violate the Constitution," said Josh Paterson, executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.