The Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart has written a public letter to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to express her deep concerns with forthcoming lawful access legislation. Stoddart’s letter notes:
Despite repeated calls, no systematic case has yet been made to justify the extent of the new investigative capabilities that would have been created by the bills. Canadian authorities have yet to provide the public with evidence to suggest that CSIS or Canadian police cannot perform their duties under the current regime. One-off cases and isolated incidents should not prove the rule, nor should exigent or emergency circumstances, for which there are already Criminal Code provisions.
As well, if the concern of law enforcement agencies is that it is difficult to obtain warrants or judicial authorization in a timely way, these administrative challenges should be addressed by administrative solutions rather than by weakening long-standing legal principles that uphold Canadians’ fundamental freedoms.
I am also concerned about the adoption of lower thresholds for obtaining personal information from commercial enterprises. The new powers envisaged are not limited to specific, serious offences or urgent or exceptional situations. In the case of access to subscriber data, there is not even a requirement for the commission of a crime to justify access to personal information â€“ real names, home address, unlisted numbers, email addresses, IP addresses and much more â€“ without a warrant. Only prior court authorization provides the rigorous privacy protection Canadians expect.
In my view, the government has not convincingly demonstrated that there are no less privacy-invasive alternatives available to achieve its stated purpose.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews responded within hours to Stoddart’s letter by indicating that the government has no plans to change its approach to the lawful access legislation.