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March 13, 2012

Protect your Charter rights against Bill C-30

The Canadian Charger

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For years the Harper government fought fiercely against the gun registry, claiming it invaded the privacy of law-abiding citizens, but now it plans to implement far more invasive and pervasive legislation.

Bill C-30 would force internet service providers to track, preserve and hand over law-abiding citizens'  personal subscriber information, including their email and IP addresses, upon request without a warrant, giving the government the legal right to monitor their emails and track their every move online, without any kind of judicial oversight.

In response, Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis  is circulating an online petition at petition and action requests/email privacy to pressure the government to amend Bill C-30, in order to protect the privacy rights of Canadians.

Mr. Karygiannis's petition reads, in part:

“Protect your Charter rights. Support the Liberal amendments for judicial oversight on electronic surveillance.  The Conservative government has introduced an Online Surveillance Bill which could violate your Charter Right to privacy – unless you act now to stop them.”

Already on the defensive due to a public outcry, the Harper government will be sending Bill C-30 to committee, and it claims it will consider opposition amendments; but Mr. Karygiannis fears that with a majority, Mr. Harper and his like-minded colleagues can oppose any amendments, unless Canadians demonstrate an overwhelming show of public support.

“The Liberal Party’s Public Safety Critic Francis Scarpaleggia has studied the work of experts like Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart and Canada Research Chair Michael Geist to craft amendments that strike a proper balance between privacy rights and public safety. We need you to sign our petition promoting the amendments, and then share it as widely as possible before the committee meets,” Mr. Karygiannis said in his petition.

The way it stands now, Bill C-30 requires telecommunications and Internet providers to give up subscriber data, including name, address, mobile phone number and IP address (your online ID). And that’s before they get a warrant.

The bill also forces tech providers to provide police with a “back door” for easy surveillance. It also lets police get warrants to track any information sent online, who sent it and from where, and will let courts force other parties to preserve electronic evidence.

Ironically, while Mr. Harper and many - if not most - of those in the Canadian media on the right of the political spectrum, constantly rail against government regulation of virtually all business activities, Bill C-30 would create a new regulatory environment for Internet providers, requiring them to submit a report within months of the law taking effect, describing their equipment and surveillance infrastructure.

Moreover, under Section 14 (4) of Bill C-30, the government will have the power to take over the Internet or telecommunications provider and install its own equipment. Because Canadian Internet Providers are unlikely to be able to pay the cost of the proposed multi-million dollar surveillance equipment, speculation is growing that the government may provide tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money in assistance.  And this is the same government that's telling Canadians that they're going to have to accept cutbacks to the Old Age Security Program because it's too expensive to be affordable.

At a time of high government debt, deficits, and austerity programs, it won't be easy to sell such a program to Canadians, but the Harper government is resorting to a time-proven strategy.

Government officials throughout the developed world have long known that by tapping into certain emotive issues – usually ones that create fear - they can get people to acquiesce to almost any legal restrictions, making fact-based evidence irrelevant: witness the Harper governments' “tough on crime bill.”

In order to sell Canadians on the need for government intrusion into their electronic communications, what better way than to invoke child pornography to inflame fear and revulsion amongst the public?

Thus it shouldn't be all that surprising that Canada's Public Safety Minister Vic Toews declared that Canadians must "either stand with us or with the child pornographers."

When his critics described the comment as "stupid," "insulting" and "disgusting," Mr. Toews at first denied having said it — which, of course, led everyone to replay the tape of him saying it.

But it was not the only comment made by Mr. Toews that he may have cause to regret.

Just as remarkable were the unequivocal statements made by him and by his senior officials that Bill C-30, includes no extension of the state's power to conduct warrantless searches. None at all, said the officials — and the minister agreed.

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