Bill C-59 – the National Security Act 2017 – outlines a new vision for Canadian national security. Reading between the lines of this “anti-terror” bill, there is a clear attempt here to comprehensively rework decision-making mechanisms to enhance oversight and ministerial control over counter terrorism, surveillance and cyberspace operations.
While it’s new measures demonstrate a clarity of vision as to where this administration would like its counter-terror efforts to go, the document reveals something else that is much more interesting.
For cyber-wonks, the decision by the Trudeau government to clarify and revise its policy outlook when it comes to cyber operations is substantial. This decision is likely to have far-reaching and enduring significance for both Canada and NATO’s cyberspace operations strategies and force development. The specifics of the proposed legislation may still be revised, but the broader policy shift toward more overt planning and deliberation on cyber defense falls in line with similar developments in other Five Eyes (UK, US, Australia and New Zealand) capitals.
Because of this important similarity, many of the same issues and factors that have emerged as cyber operations controversies for these partners may also affect Canada’s new policy approach. More than anything else, C-59 encapsulates the most relevant cyber debates and issues of our time. As such, the Bill should not be considered more than just this – a beginning to coherent Canadian policy on cyber.