The Canadian Association of Police Chiefs recently renewed their call on the federal government to pass its controversial, (and possibly charter breaching), internet surveillance bill. Their argument is the tools provided will make them more able to fight cybercrime.
Association president, and Vancouver police chief Jim Chu is afraid that the bill will die on the order paper, leaving police with the requirement of a warrant to conduct wiretaps and internet surveillance.
Originally included in the first crime omnibus bill, Bill C-30 was removed due to the massive public backlash. Section 34 especially created a large controversy, with concerns that this would give not just police, but any government appointed agents unlimited power in eavesdropping on Canadians within the digital realm. ISP’s would be required to track their customers, and would have to hand over all information without need for a warrant, judicial oversight, or even the pre-tense of a criminal investigation.
This is the same bill that CSIS came out in support of earlier this year.
While I can certainly understand Chu’s desire to have unfettered access to information for the purposes of tracking criminals, I certainly don’t see the need for it. Nor do I think it would stand up to a charter challenge, as section 8 clearly states that we as Canadians have a right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.
I have a hard time believing that a judge would see complete and unfettered access without any oversight as reasonable, and I’m surprised that Chu doesn’t take this into account. I would think, working in a province like British Columbia, where drunk drivers and the like are getting off because of delays in the justice system, Chief Chu would have a greater appreciate for making the legislation more challenge proof. No one likes seeing people get off on a technicality, most of all the police who put in all the energy to investigating and arresting people.
But at the end of the day, legislation is supposed to fill a need. Minister Toews famously said if you’re against the legislation, you’re for the child molesters. Yet critics were quick to point out that ISP’s already provide information in 95% percent of police requests connected to child exploitation cases. In fact, in an Ontario case earlier this year, 60 people were arrested and 22 victims rescued with 76 warrants being executed. Software the police developed themselves assisted in the investigation, and 24 police forces collaborated to bring down this wide ranging child pornography ring. And all of this done without complete and unfettered access the monitoring of Canadians online.
So where is the need in unfettered access to all of Canadians online information? What is this bill actually addressing? Police have a hard job, and they do need tools to fight criminals, but simply making the cops jobs easier isn’t worth giving up fundamental rights, and ignoring things like section 8 of the charter.
I’m not saying child pornography and cyber crime aren’t a real, and growing threat. They are. But why do all Canadians have to give up their protections to unwarranted searches to track down these criminals? It seems like the police already have the abilities and the skills to do what they need. This piece of legislation doesn’t fill a glaring gap. What they really need is more resources and cooperation between police forces.
So I would ask the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, stop asking for what you want, and start asking for what you need. Maybe then the politicians will be able to come up with a good option to get their credit for their tough on crime agenda through a means that doesn’t start us down the slippery slope to government spying, on the pre-tense that you need something you only want.