Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) of the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) gene triggers a series of molecular events leading to intestinal adenomagenesis. Haploinsufficiency of the cohesin Rad21 influences multiple initiating events in colorectal cancer (CRC). We identify Rad21 as a gatekeeper of LOH and a β-catenin target gene and provide evidence that Wnt pathway activation drives RAD21 expression in human CRC. Genome-wide analyses identified Rad21 as a key transcriptional regulator of critical CRC genes and long interspersed element (LINE-1 or L1) retrotransposons. Elevated RAD21 expression tracks with reactivation of L1 expression in human sporadic CRC, implicating cohesin-mediated L1 expression in global genomic instability and gene dysregulation in cancer.