You Conservatives Better Listen Up ... The CDN Public Is NOT Going To Swallow Your Internet Surveillance Bill
PARLIAMENT HILL—"The government’s controversial Bill C-30, which would give police and security agents new surveillance powers over the internet and compel web service providers to assist them, could also lead to a “massive internet sweep” on thousands of political and social activists, warns a leading human rights lawyer.
The scenario is likely if the proposed Bill C-30, which the government has emphasized as legislation to protect children from internet predators, passes through Parliament and its new powers are used in conjunction with a new government counter-terrorism strategy released less than a week before Public Safety Minister Vic Toews (Provencher, Man.) introduced the internet surveillance bill in the Commons, Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ, a director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Union, told The Hill Times on Wednesday.
The impact Bill C-30, which has so far received first reading the Commons, could have on internet users as well as their internet service providers took backstage last week in a furor Mr. Toews sparked when he challenged Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia (Lac Saint Louis, Que.) to “either stand with us or with the child pornographers.”
At the time, in the Monday, Feb. 13 Commons Question Period the day before Mr. Toews tabled the legislation, Mr. Scarpaleggia was questioning whether the government could be trusted not to use the provisions of the bill to spy on Canadians protesting oil pipelines or other issues, following Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s (Eglinton-Lawrence, Ont.) claim that foreign-financed radicals were behind opposition to the massive Northern Gateway oil pipeline in B.C.
Although the government gave Bill C-30 the short title of Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, the legislation covers investigations into suspected organized crime activity, terrorism and other Criminal Code offences.
In a lengthy interview with The Hill Times about the implications of Bill C-30, along with the government’s new counter-terrorism strategy and definitions of terrorist activity in the Criminal Code, Mr. Champ expressed the same reservations that prompted Mr. Toews to suggest Mr. Scarpaleggia was siding with child predators.
The concern centres on a provision in Bill C-30 that reduces the threshold of an existing Criminal Code provision allowing police to intercept private communications without a judge’s warrant “in exceptional circumstances,” along with the power Mr. Toews and successive federal Public Safety ministers will have to force cooperation from internet service providers, including fines up to $100,000 for individuals and $500,000 to service providers who refuse to set up the surveillance and interception equipment the bill requires to hand over intercepted communications to the RCMP, provincial and city police forces, or the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency.
Furthermore, the RCMP and the head of CSIS will have the power to designate agents with the authority to collect, without a judicial warrant, the names, addresses and telephone numbers of any internet service provider’s subscribers, along with their internet protocol addresses, the key to tracking down and hacking computers over the internet.
Also at the centre of Mr. Champ’s concerns—as well as those expressed at the outset of the controversy by opposition MPs and civil liberties advocates—is the counter-terrorism strategy Mr. Toews unveiled only five days before he tabled the internet surveillance bill.
In the middle of its treatment of terrorism and related threats, the strategy includes a section on “Domestic Issue-based Extremism,” and says “low-level violence by domestic issued-based groups remains a reality in Canada. Such extremism tends to be based on grievances—real or perceived—revolving around the promotion of various causes such as animal rights, white supremacy, environmentalism and anti-capitalism.”
“Although very small in number, some groups in Canada have moved beyond lawful protest to encourage, threaten and support acts of violence,” the strategy statement says.
Existing Criminal Code definitions of terrorist activity include acts that are committed “in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause” with the intention of intimidating the public’s sense of security, and which intentionally cause death or substantial damage to public or private property.
Mr. Champ said he recalled the massive government security build-up for the summit of G20 government leaders in Toronto in 2010, which ended with the detention of more than 1,100 protesters. There were widely-published images of pockets of hooded or masked “Black Bloc” demonstrators smashing store windows and torching police cars, but most of the protesters who were detained were later released without being charged.
Mr. Champ said Bill C-30 would give sweeping new powers to police and security agencies to monitor legitimate protesters prior to similar events in the future. Environmental activists protesting pipelines or other projects, including the Northern Gateway pipeline and another proposed oil sands pipeline extension into the U.S., could also be subject to broad surveillance."
Image appeared in Toronto Star = Feb. 23 by Theo Moudakis