Print Edition: November 7, 2012
“Won’t somebody please think of the children?” It was the plea of Helen Lovejoy on a certain episode of The Simpsons, but the Canadian government was apparently listening.
The federal Conservatives did just that when they introduced their Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, or Bill C-30, last February. It’s such a menacing sounding name.
This was certainly a bill that police across the country were looking forward to. However, during the summer it stalled due to a much stronger opposition.
Originally titled the Lawful Access Act, it seems apparent that the name wasn’t sensationalist enough. Within an hour of when the bill was put forth under its original title it was rescinded in a turn of American style politics and resubmitted under its new one.
While introducing the bill into the Commons, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews took the classy route when he stated that “[people] can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.”
But even if they did play games with the bill, the substance could still have been worthwhile. Instead, it’s essentially legislation that breaks down to a sweeping new way of unwarranted online surveillance.
Critics, such as privacy commissioners across the country, were up in arms. In a June news release, Ann Cavoukian, Information and Privacy Commissioner in Toronto, commented, “This so-called ‘lawful access’ legislation represented one of the most invasive threats to our privacy and freedom that I have ever encountered in my 25 years. The broad powers proposed represent much more – they represent a looming system of what I am calling, ‘Surveillance by Design.’”
The way the Bill was crafted allowed it to step on the bounds of our right to privacy without adequately addressing the need for it, and would have precluded the checks and balance system that obtaining a warrant allows.
Fortunately it stalled.
But here we go again.
Now the police are knocking on the government door. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), of which the Vancouver Police Department’s Chief Constable Jim Chu is president, has come out to endorse C-30 and see that it starts moving again in Parliament.
I don’t doubt that the police have real reasons and concerns for wanting this power. Heinous crimes occur, as badly as we wish they didn’t.
In fact, a video released by the CACP, titled “Police Confirm Canadians’ Top Five Fears About Bill C-30,” does point to some very valid reason for wanting this piece of legislation passed.
In this video the first fact pointed to is “If I was assaulted or robbed and the criminal dropped their cell phone, the telecommunications company could refuse to tell the police who attacked me.” So wouldn’t it sound reasonable to allow the police access to that information?
Sure it does, but it’s not like the police don’t have any recourse. We have a system in place already. It’s a system that also protects Canadians privacy rights. It’s not necessary to erode these rights and oversight in the name of expedition.
There’s no doubt when listening to the news that our court systems do become backlogged at times. However, it’s a fair system that should not be traded away for any reason. It does need some work and tweaks here to maintain a level of efficiency, but there are many other ways to do it than overrunning it with Bill C-30 type legislation.
I don’t doubt that this comes back to the forefront of government. We may see a return of this bill or its provisions will just be hidden in the backdoor of another.