Canadian Elites Pursue Police State on Crime and Terrorism Pretext
The Canadian— It won’t be long before Canadian privacy laws regarding telecommunications come under attack again. These laws apply to technologies everyone relies on—from cell phones to the Internet. And as seen before, the federal government is likely to soon change them in a push towards facilitating online surveillance of individuals’ lives. If the government succeeds, it would mean online monitoring could be done without a warrant and other impingements on Canadians’ rights to privacy.
When parliament started with a Conservative majority in fall 2011, many privacy rights experts and advocated worried that the Conservative were going to push for “Lawful Access” measures in the Omnibus Crime Bill C-10. These measures, which failed to pass the last parliament, would change the rules around what the state can and cannot monitor. They’re designed to expedite the passing of a variety of laws, from raising mandatory minimum sentences, to harsher sentencing for young offenders, and even providing victims of terrorism the right to sue for compensation.
Canada’s Federal Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, supported by many Provincial Privacy Commissioners opposed the “Lawful Access” measures in an open letter, dated October 26, 2011, to the Deputy Minister of Public Safety, Mr. William V. Baker. After outlining how the new laws would “make it easier for the state to subject more individuals to surveillance and scrutiny,” Stoddart went on to point out that there is a lack of evidence to support those measures.
“At no time have Canadian authorities provided the public with any evidence or reasoning to suggest that CSIS or any other Canadian law enforcement agencies have been frustrated in the performance of their duties as a result of shortcomings attributable to current law, [telecommunications service providers] or the manner in which they operate,” she wrote.
Stoddart wasn’t alone in the mobilization against “Lawful Access”. Many NDP government critics penned letters condemning the proposed laws, and grassroots groups such as Openmedia.ca opened a petition, “Stop Online Spying”, that was signed by more than 70,000 Canadians.
The “Lawful Access” provisions, however, were in the end removed from the omnibus crime bill before it was formally tabled in September. But even though they aren’t currently up for consideration, many critics believe they will undoubtedly return to the table. Whether they are to be reintroduced with or without changes remains uncertain.
The “Lawful Access” measures were first introduced in the 40th parliament in November 2010 via three complimentary internet crime bills, designed to tighten governance of Canada’s cyberspace: Bill C-50, Improving Access to Investigative Tools for Serious Crimes Act; Bill C-51 Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act; and Bill C-52, Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act.
Looking at the bigger picture, the government was presenting each new item of Internet law as a stand-alone policy necessary to “modernize” telecommunications (ie, the Internet) in a bid to hide the interlocking nature of what is emerging: each new law, once passed, sets the stage for the next, facilitating unprecedented powers to implement mass online surveillance.