Steven Blaney: “Every time the right of Canadians or other people could be infringed, CSIS will need to go and seek a warrant from a judge.”
By: Dana Wagner on
Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Conservative MP for Lévis — Bellechasse, in an interview on March 5, 2015
Steven Blaney misused one word, and that makes his statement misleading. Under the proposed anti-terrorism law, CSIS must seek a warrant for activities that “will,” not “could,” violate the Charter or other law.FactsCan Score: Misleading
Since the government tabled its anti-terrorism bill C-51 in late January, critics have called for amendments to increase the oversight of new powers given to Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). The law changes CSIS from a surveillance agency to one with powers to disrupt security threats. The government has responded that the bill includes oversight alongside new powers.
On the question of oversight, Steven Blaney, minister of public safety, said “every time the right of Canadians or other people could be infringed, CSIS will need to go and seek a warrant from a judge.”
Bill C-51 does require CSIS to get judicial warrants, but only for some activities, and C-51 uses different language than the minister.
It says the agency must seek a warrant in order to take measures that “will contravene a right or freedom guaranteed by the [Charter] or will be contrary to other Canadian law” (section 12.1(3)).
Blaney said “could” (form of “can”) instead of “would” (form of “will”). It’s just one word, but no minor difference when the issue is the threshold at which CSIS must seek a judicial warrant for disruption activities.
Craig Forcese and Kent Roach, both experts in national security law, also note the one-word difference between certainty and possibility. They wrote that section 12.1(3) “only requires such a warrant where “measures” “will” (not “may”) contravene a Charter right or Canadian law. Other measures that do not go this far presumptively do not require a judicial warrant, and the only oversight in this instance will be internal, executive branch controls.”
Activities that could contravene the law constitute a broader category than activities that would do so.
A government backgrounder on the bill likewise uses different language than Blaney. It too indicates certainty about a violation, not mere possibility: “CSIS would need a court warrant whenever proposed threat disruption measures contravene Charter rights or would otherwise be contrary to Canadian law.”
It is misleading to say that CSIS needs a warrant under C-51 for activities that “could” contravene the law. That’s broader than the language used in the bill. Warrants are only required for disruption activities that “will” contravene the Charter or other Canadian law.
Blaney did not respond to requests to clarify his remark.