The following join letter, prepared by OpenMedia, was sent by a coalition of civil society groups to the Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety, and Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice.
We are a group of civil society organisations and individual experts working directly with Canadians to ensure that their needs are met in any legislation that amends Bill C-51 and that addresses ongoing shortcomings in our privacy and digital security.
Today, we’re writing to you because we are concerned that Canadian voices are not being heard on Bill C-51. Skepticism has been fuelled by the perception of biased language in your online national security consultation, and lack of transparency around how the feedback gathered will be treated. Citizens have the right to know what the results of the consultation were – and how you will be acting on them.
We’re asking you to proactively and transparently release all submissions you received as part of your national security consultation. Only this level of transparency will truly demonstrate your commitment to open government initiatives.
There is precedent here. The Canadian Heritage consultation on copyright was made public to demonstrate openness and transparency in that process. Moreover, proactive disclosure of this information fits with best practices in open government and access to information obligations, which also provide a framework for ensuring disclosure does not adversely affect privacy or other legitimate interests of consultation participants. But most importantly, we believe that this would show a good faith effort to assuage Canadians’ concerns that their voices aren't being heard.
Above all else, the results of the consultation must be released and made available to external, independent analysis before any legislation is tabled. This issue matters deeply to Canadians. Over 10,000 people have taken part in your online consultations via OpenMedia’s consultation tools alone, in addition to the overwhelming number of submissions we know have been made by our partners and allies across the country. And crucially, citizens, academics, experts, and advocacy organizations must be empowered to audit the full record of your consultation before any legislative changes are announced.
The previous government was widely criticized for forcing Bill C-51 through parliament despite overwhelming opposition from hundreds of thousands of Canadian citizens. Your government has promised to ‘get it right’ by holding these consultations - but that won’t happen without giving Canadians the transparency they’ve been denied until now.
Canadians are rightly questioning this government’s commitment to act on their feedback to this highly controversial bill. They deserve a government that listens and puts Canadians first. We urge you to make this commitment to transparency as a critical first step to restoring that trust.
We look forward to your response.
Andrew Clement, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto
Annette DeFaveri, Executive Director, BC Library Association
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
Dr. Benjamin Muller, King's University College
Bill Bonner, University of Regina
Canadian Access and Privacy Association
Canadian Institute of Access and Privacy Professionals
Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC)
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Centre for Free Expression
Dr. Christopher Parsons, Research Associate, Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
Council of Canadians
David Lyon, Surveillance Studies Centre, Queen's University
David Murakami Wood, Canada Research Chair in Surveillance Studies, Surveillance Studies Centre, Queen's University
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Fenwick McKelvey, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Studies, Concordia University
Friends of Public Services
Hossein Derakhshan, author and journalist
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
James L. Turk, Director, Centre for Free Expression, Distinguished Visiting Professor, Faculty of Communications and Design, Ryerson University
Janice Charnstrom, Certified Information Privacy Professional (Canada), lawyer
Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada
Leslie Regan Shade, Professor, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto
Dr. Monia Mazigh, author and academic
Privacy and Access Council of Canada — Conseil du Canada de l’Accès et la vie Privée
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association
Sharon Polsky, MAPP — Privacy & Access-to-Information Advocate & Privacy by Design Ambassador
Youth Vote Canada