Canadian Senate Votes to 'Keep Fear Alive' with Passage of Spy Bill

The Canadian Senate on Tuesday passed a sweeping surveillance bill that will expand the government’s spying powers, despite massive outcry from Canadian citizens and privacy advocates who say the legislation threatens civil liberties and religious rights.

Bill C-51 passed 44-28 in the Conservative-majority chamber. The law will amend the Criminal Code to expand the mandate and power of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and allow police to detain and arrest people without charge if they are suspected as threats to national security.

It will also grant more than 100 law enforcement and intelligence agencies access to Canadians’ personal information—including their financial status, medical history, and religious and political beliefs—and require airlines to help prevent alleged suspects from flying overseas, among other measures.

The bill, which passed the House of Commons last week, has been championed by conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper as an essential tool in the so-called “War on Terror,” but critics warned that it would violate Canadians’ civil rights.

“It’s no secret that this is bad news,” wrote Soledad Vega, a journalist and facilitator with OpenMedia, one of the advocacy organizations opposing C-51, in response to the passage of the bill. “When the world’s largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization says Bill C-51 violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, you know this bill is a real threat.”

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