Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Bill C-30 a slippery slope and the demise of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms

February 18, 2012

Open Letter

To: Dave Wilks, MP Kootenay/Columbia
From: Bobbie Saga

This letter is to state my unequivocal opposition to the egregious lawful access legislation, now known as Bill C-30 or Protecting Children From Internet Predators Act, tabled in Parliament February 14.

First, I wish to point out that a recent United Nations report on the subject of lawful access is highly critical of such forms of legislation that, in short, invites abuse of power and chills free speech. Essentially, the UN denounced legislation passed since 9/11 in other jurisdictions, taking issue with "criminalization of personal data;" that is, the use of innocent sources of mundane personal information as databases for crime control. It specifically took issue with the excuse currently being touted by law enforcement agencies and governments as being required for the protection of children, as well as it being used as a guise for combating terrorism. The report is a condemnation of unconstitutional measures that are not only unjustified, but are also often abused, such as the UK model, and/or used to further the goals of authoritarian regimes like China. It makes for rather interesting reading.

With all due respect, it is well documented that in Canada law enforcement agencies already have significant powers of investigation. Thus, it would be prudent for them to actually substantiate a legitimate case for spying on all Canadians without warrants because to date, they have not done so. Plus, neither law enforcement agencies nor the federal government have given the public any indication of how they might safeguard law-abiding Canadians from abuse that is sure to occur with such sweeping new powers. Alone, the UK model highlights the dangers inherent with this type of legislation. Like the UK model, the current tabled legislation does include a review mechanism, but up-front procedures and harsh penalties for violations by authorities do not exist in C-30. Individuals having colour of right can use any justification, including mistakes, to defend what may in fact be abuse. Thus, an unfunded, after-the-fact audit by the privacy commissioner’s office is hardly comforting in the face of legislation that essentially trumps significant privacy rights as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. At best, it is a slippery slope upon which other Charter rights could be eroded, such as freedom of association.

As well, I hold disdain for any government representative who would be so arrogant as to attempt to spin the facts concerning this legislation, or engages in disingenuous doublespeak, or makes statements that are the opposite of the truth.

In September, and following much criticism to the then pending legislation, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews stated on record the government had no plans to allow interception of private communications without a warrant. Then on Monday, Liberal public safety critic Francis Scarpaleggia alleged during question period the government is "preparing to read Canadians' emails and track their movements through cellphone signals, in both cases without a warrant." Toews responded by stating, again on record, that Scarpaleggia "can either stand with us or with the child pornographers."

The wording of the tabled legislation is clear enough to read and proves Toews misled Canadians back in September. Now, however, there is a blatant attempt by Toews and others to spin a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation. Canadians can read, and many can interpret legislation right down to the legal difference between the words may and shall.

As such, I am outraged by Straw Man Toews going over the top by utilizing an utterly transparent tactic. His response to the opposition critic merely sets up a false dichotomy of the worst form. Toews words from September may now ring hollow, at best. But his response to Scarpaleggia is nothing short of reprehensible. Canadians might disagree with this legislation for legitimate reasons other than being aligned with child pornographers. It’s insulting.

Additionally, today’s news of Toews claiming he did not read C-30 is, to say the least, the most disturbing display of backpedaling I have ever witnessed. Give me a break! Here, is Toews telling the truth, or are Canadians witnessing a government in serious damage control with Toews coming forward as the sacrificial lamb? Or is he being thrown under the bus in the face of heavy opposition to a complete and utter fiasco that is growing by the day? Please state on record which member(s) of the Conservative caucus is/are responsible for this legislation. And please state on record which members of the Conservative caucus read and/or understood every word of the legislation prior to it being tabled.

Moreover, I love the title change of this dangerous piece of legislation –– whereby the only reference to children is in the title. I take extreme exception to a bill granting sweeping new powers to both the government and law enforcement that is NOT limited to the investigation of criminal offences, or for that matter, any offence whatsoever. What hypocrisy from a government that nixed both the long-form census and the gun registry under the guise of standing up for the rights of Canadians! This legislation is no more about child pornography than I am about staying silent. Indeed, the whole "going after the molesters" rhetoric is nothing but emotional drivel and fear mongering to allow monitoring of the general population without appropriate legal oversight. It is about invading the privacy and violating the privacy rights of every Canadian.

Neither governments nor law enforcement agencies are above the law. And in Canada, the law of this land is embedded in our constitution. Shame on the Conservatives.

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