Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Criticism of Bill C-30 driven by media misunderstanding, claims Vic Toews


Minister of Public Safety embarks on a campaign of misinformation, critics charge

by Bobbie Saga

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews continues to defend the Tories’ lawful access legislation – and himself – saying many in the media misunderstand the highly controversial Bill C-30.

Toews made the attempt to clarify his position in an Op-ed column for Postmedia News Friday that followed a public backlash beginning with the Tories’ reintroduction of the legislation that many Canadians, at best, deem too intrusive.

But in the process of an explanation, Toews – yet again – resorts to a disingenuous attack, this time taking direct aim at the media.

In his editorial, Toews continues to reiterate the bill’s intent is to protect children, even though the only reference to children is in the title, and that it is required to combat serious crime, even though critics say law enforcement agencies have yet to provide evidence to substantiate the need for sweeping new police powers.

"Let me be clear: Bill C-30 creates no new powers to access the content of e-mails, web-browsing history or phone calls beyond that which already exists in Canadian law," Toews wrote.

"Some have accused me of not reading a bill I've been involved in shaping for over half a decade. Ironically, when I read most media coverage of C-30, I am struck by just how poorly the bill is understood by many writers."

Toews first leveled an attack against Liberal public safety critic Francis Scarpaleggia Feb. 13 with his now infamous statement, inferring Canadians could, "stand with us of with the child pornographers." But by the following day, and with public outrage mounting over the comment, Toews denied having said it, leading the media to replay the tape of him saying it.

Then on Feb. 14, the day C-30 or the Protecting Children From Online Predators Act was reintroduced in Parliament, it was confirmed the legislation does indeed give authorities new and unprecedented access to personal information – names, addresses, phone numbers and online ID numbers – and without appropriate court oversight.

In an interview airing Feb.17 on CBC Radio's The House, Toews also said his understanding of the bill is police can only request information from ISPs when conducting, "a specific criminal investigation."

But according to privacy and legal experts, as well as the opposition parties, provisions of C-30 do allow authorities the ability to ask for Internet subscribers' information without a warrant under "exceptional circumstances" (Section 17), and there is a section allowing authorities, with a warrant, to make copies of records made by ISPs (Section 34).

Within days of its introduction, and with growing opposition from within their own base that included calls for Toews' resignation, the Tories announced the bill would go directly to committee for revisions, a rare move by any government.

Campaign of misinformation

There is, however, more skepticism than certainty that Bill C-30 going to the committee process will result in reasoned debate, or changes to the legislation. That is because Conservative MPs have control of the process and will determine all aspects of it and its outcome.

And although most vocal media critics of the legislation have yet to respond to Toews continued assertions, or his statement the media misunderstand Bill C-30, some opponents are clearly not backing off in their bid to have the bill go through substantive alterations. Nor has the very vocal public outcry abaited to have Bill C-30 killed altogether, or fixed.

Dr. Michael Geist, an expert on the subject of lawful access, and outspoken critic of both the current and previously tabled legislation, says he has "been asked repeatedly what should be done to fix Bill C-30" since its reintroduction.

He says the bill requires considerable study, adding "12 amendments of undertakings" are needed "to begin to address the massive public concern with the legislation." Geist posted How to Fix Canada's Online Surveillance Bill: A 12 Step To-Do List on his blog yesterday.

"Given recent events, many understandably believe the bill is beyond repair and should be scrapped," he says.

"However, assuming the government sticks with it and send[s] the bill to committee with a mandate to consider a wide range of reforms and submissions, I’d start with the non-comprehensive to-do list:
  1. Evidence, Evidence, Evidence;
  2. No Mandatory Warrantless Access to Subscriber Information;
  3. Reporting Warrantless Disclosure of Subscriber Information;
  4. Remove the Disclosure Gag Order;
  5. "Voluntary" Warrantless Data Preservation and Production;
  6. Government Installation of Surveillance Equipment;
  7. Reconsider the Internet Provider Regulatory Framework;
  8. Improve Lawful Access Oversight;
  9. Limit the Law to Serious Crimes;
  10. Come Clean on Costs;
  11. The Missing Regulations;
  12. Deal with the Failure of Privacy Laws to Keep Pace."
Meanwhile, Vincent Gogolek, a spokesperson for the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, took serious issue with both Toews and a "fact sheet" that suddenly appeared on the Public Safety site last week. It included a scathing review of Toews’ recent talking points. As well, he wrote a "mythbusting" rebuttal of Public Safety's fact sheet on behalf of the Vancouver-based OpenMedia group.

OpenMedia is an independent, non-partisan organization representing more than 40 advocacy and other groups, plus many individual Canadians countering the government with a petition that, to date, has accumulated over 115,000 signatures. It has also championed a public education Stop Online Spying campaign since last May.

"The government is on the defence," Gogolek wrote.

"Fresh from being outed on CBC radio as unfamiliar with his own bill, asked to resign in the National Post, and generally berated via social media, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has been emailing those who signed the Stop Online Spying petition with the same washed up talking points that have been debunked again and again. We’ve decided to go point-by-point through his misleading ‘myth-busting’, and make sure it’s clear how ridiculous this bill — not to mention the force attempting to pass it — truly is."

Gogolek then advised that "If you're upset by Toews' unwillingness to listen to Canadians, consider submitting a letter to your local paper. We have a tool for this here."

Additionally, results of a public-opinion poll released Friday by Angus Reid, suggests half of Canadians surveyed believe the bill is too intrusive, while about the same amount believe C-30 should be scrapped.

The survey concludes Canadians reject components of Bill C-30, and reveals concern over the proposed legislation crosses party lines. Nearly half of Conservatives and the majority of New Democrats and Liberals oppose the bill's passage in its current form. It does not state if Green Party supporters were represented in the survey.

"The idea of surrendering subscriber data and identifiers without a warrant is rejected by almost two thirds of Canadians," Angus Reid declared in its analysis.

It went further, noting, "The most unpopular measure included in Bill C-30 is requiring telecommunications providers to disclose, without a warrant, six types of identifiers from subscriber data (Name, Address, Telephone number, Email address, IP address and Local service provider identifier). Almost two thirds of Canadians (64%) disagree with this idea."

The online survey of 1,011 randomly selected Canadian adults, which took place Thursday and Friday, has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Sweeping Conservative legislation disregards the Charter rights of all Canadians

Three problematic pieces of legislation are currently going through Canada’s Parliament that should be of concern to all Canadians.

Bill C-10 is commonly referred to as the Omnibus Crime Bill. It recently passed the Green Chamber of the House of Commons with little debate, and as of Feb. 22, it is now in the Conservative stacked Senate process. This bill is a plethora of US, Republican-style, failed policies.

Bill C-11 is Canada’s version of the US SOPA/PIPA legislation concerning digital lockdowns. This type of legislation recently prompted Wikipedia to shut down its website for 24 hours, or on what was dubbed "black Wednesday." The legislation, recently tabled in the House, is flying under the Canadian public’s radar.

Bill C-30, formerly and commonly known as lawful access legislation, got a name change last week to Protecting Children From Predators Act. Unlike C-11, it is finally getting much-warranted mainstream media attention. Currently, there is a growing backlash from the public about this bill, and with good reason. It's a resounding call for the federal government to kill Bill C-30, but despite this, PM Harper announced Sunday he sent the bill to committee for revisions, a committee whereby the Conservatives will determine what revisions will be made.

In totality, the bills are very disturbing because all three undermine the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Thus, every Canadian is encouraged to spend a little time to become informed about all three very important pieces of legislation. What follows are links to sites that will give people information, mostly on C-30. Other information may be obtained via these links, as well as by a Google search based on the name of the other two bills. Become informed and speak out. Also, please share information with others. Canada’s future is in our hands, not the federal Conservatives.

The egregious C-30 legislation:


Bill C-10 (A bundle of crime and justice bills):

Bill C-11 (An Act to Amend the Copyright Act or the Copyright Modernization Act):

Cutting through the rhetoric of lawful access legislation. A story of vital concern to every Canadian:

Hear what the experts say:

For more information visit:

Cutting through the rhetoric of the Omnibus Crime Bill. A news video worth watching:

More cutting through the rhetoric of lawful access (three other stories worth reading):

Sign the Petition on C-30 or send a message to the minister with respect to Bill C-11 or a message to provincial senators on Bill C-10 located at:
http://stopspying.ca/ and http://openmedia.ca/lockdown and http://leadnow.ca/keep-canada-safe

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.