Former Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) director Richards Fadden urged “caution” Tuesday as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government remains committed to softening the powers that the security agency gained under his predecessor, Stephen Harper.
Fadden, who was also national security advisor to Harper, told the National Post that the terrorist attack in Manchester this week is a another reminder that terrorist attacks can strike without warning if security personnel are unable to provide risk protection.
And he is certain that Canada remains a prime target for terrorists.
“I believe the government should move with caution in removing some of the authorities Parliament has given to national security agencies,” he said.
“First, because the threat remains real and, secondly, because the additional powers that might be scaled back have not — to my knowledge — either been abused or overused.”
His comments came in the aftermath of Monday’s concert attack in the U.K. for which ISIS claimed responsibility.
Fadden is concerned that Trudeau remains committed to repealing large portions of Bill C-51, legislation that provided CSIS with the additional powers it sought to directly intervene when it suspected terrorists were planning an attack — instead of being an intelligence conduit that passes on its information to the RCMP. The Liberals, in opposition at the time, promised to repeal the bill if they formed the next government.
CSIS must still seek a warrant if its investigations could violate the suspect’s Charter rights.
Just this month, a Liberal-controlled Parliamentary committee report continued to advocate for significant changes to C-51 and suggested the current legislation gives CSIS the “ability to violate the charter.”
The committee also says the security agency must “exhaust all other non-disruptive means of reducing threats,” that it continue to work the RCMP and other police to clearly delineate “the traditional distinction” between intel operations and law enforcement.
The bill has consistently been vilified by some groups who see it as endangering privacy rights. Public Safety Canada recently revealed the results of a public inquiry the department completed that found a majority of those questioned supported the Liberal plan to scale back or repeal the legislation.
However, there is absolutely no indication that CSIS has abused its powers. The Parliamentary committee that was established to monitor the intelligence service said the agency was acting responsibly in its investigation of potential terrorist threats. The Security Intelligence Review Committee said in September 2016 that CSIS had not even sought a warrant to potentially violate Charter rights.