Arif Virani

Your member of parliament for

Parkdale-High Park

Arif Virani

Your member of parliament for

Parkdale-High Park


My Statement on Bill C-59: Balancing National Security with Fundamental Rights and Freedoms

Before the House of Commons rose for the summer and parliamentarians returned to their communities, our government tabled Bill C-59: An Act respecting national security matters.

We crafted this Bill to enhance our national security framework and balance it with our fundamental rights and freedoms protected under the Charter – a commitment we made in 2015 in response to wholly inadequate and overreaching legislation passed by the Harper government: the old Bill C-51. With this bill, we are enhancing accountability, transparency, and fixing problematic elements of the previous government’s Bill C-51.

We conducted an unprecedented level of public consultations with Canadians about our national security. Canadians want a transparent, accountable, and effective national security framework, and that is exactly what we aim to accomplish with Bill C-59.

Among the many other deficiencies we are addressing from Bill C-51, we are also enhancing transparency in our national security framework. In Bill C-59, we have committed to publishing information on: (1) how national security legislation is interpreted and applied; (2) ministerial directives to security agencies; and, (3) national security threats, and our government’s response.

Fundamental to our promise to bring our national security framework into the 21st century, we are fixing the very problematic elements of the Harper government’s old Bill C-51, including:

  • tightening the definition of “terrorist propaganda”;
  • protecting the right of all Canadians to legitimate protest and advocacy;
  • upgrading no-fly list procedures; and
  • ensuring the paramountcy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I am proud to support this evidence-based, balanced legislation, and I am reassured to see positive reactions from legal and national security experts across the country, including Professors Craig Forcese (University of Ottawa) and Kent Roach (University of Toronto) – see their piece on Bill C-59 here.

With the establishment of a parliamentary oversight in Bill C-22 committee and a new, arms-length review body in Bill C-59, we are addressing the glaring gap that exists in our review bodies for national security agencies. Currently, some agencies do not have a review body, or are in charge of reviewing their own agencies. We cannot allow the lack of such fundamental oversight to continue – especially with regard to the safety and security of Canadians.

Bill C-59 builds on our commitment to enhance accountability, as we introduced in 2016 with Bill C-22: An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. In Bill C-22 we proposed to establish an all-party committee of parliamentarians, your elected representatives, to review and critically analyze security and intelligence activities.

We are building on Bill C-22 with Bill C-59, which will establish a National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA). The NSIRA will function as a new expert review body with jurisdiction across the entire government, to complement the efforts of the parliamentary oversight committee.

I look forward to hearing from you about bills C-22 and C-59, as the input of constituents is critical to get the right balance between protecting constitutional rights and keeping Canada safe.

Yours truly,

Arif Virani
MP for Parkdale-High Park
Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism