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Canada v Alford

Canada v Alford is an appeal of a successful constitutional challenge to s. 12 of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act (“NSICPA”), which limits the application of parliamentary privilege related to offences under the NSICPA.

The NSICPA was passed in 2017, creating a committee of parliamentarians who would review national security issues. The law also made it an offence for committee members to reveal secret information they would receive to carry out their duties, and stipulated that parliamentary privilege cannot be used as a defence if charged. Ryan Alford, a law professor at Lakehead University, challenged the law on the basis that it was not within Parliament’s jurisdiction to limit the constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech and debate in Parliament without using the amending provisions of the Constitution. His challenge was successful, and Canada appealed that decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal.

The BCCLA has intervened in this appeal to argue that accountability and transparency are at the core of the constitutional protection of parliamentary privilege, and that these purposes should inform the Court’s decision in this case, especially given the context of national security review and oversight. Members of Parliament should not face potential imprisonment for acting as whistleblowers if they expose serious wrongdoing by national security organizations. 

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