Letter to Prime Minister Harper: Retroactivity in Bill C-59


May 14, 2015

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper

Prime Minister of Canada

Langevin Block

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A2


Re: Use of the Parliamentary Time Machine

Dear Prime Minister:

Like most Canadians, we are shocked by your government’s decision to bring in legislation to retroactively undermine the Access to Information Act using amendments buried in the 167 pages of Bill C-59, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 21, 2015 and other measures.

Although we have become accustomed to seeing your government undermine the Access to Information system, we were very surprised to see your sudden adoption of a “soft on crime” approach by using retroactive legislation to absolve RCMP members of responsibility for violating s.67.1 of the Act. As you may know, this section prohibits a number of actions to interfere with Canadians’ access rights, and carries a penalty of up two years in jail. The Information Commission conducted an investigation into this file and referred the evidence of the possible commission of an offence to the Attorney General.


It is perhaps understandable that you would not want to highlight your new ‘soft on crime’ stance given your previous statements on the need to punish crime and criminal activity, especially in an election year. We offer no opinion on your newfound desire to prevent even the possibility of criminal charges from being laid even in a case where the Information Commissioner found enough evidence to believe an offence may have been committed.

We wonder if your enthusiasm for retroactive decriminalization might apply to other offences that may have been committed in the past, especially if the perpetrators were motivated by carrying out your government’s “intentions.”


Whatever your motives in bringing forward this use of the parliamentary time machine, we believe it is of sufficient importance that it deserves the full attention and debate of your parliamentary colleagues. Therefore we recommend that you remove these sections from Bill 59 and reintroduce them as their own bill -unless you decide to scrap this radical retroactive proposal.


Vincent Gogolek

Executive Director

BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association

#103-1093 West Broadway

Vancouver, BC

V6H 1E2