Media coverage of the government’s introduction of Bill C-13, the lawful access/cyberbullying bill, quickly focused on the inclusion of provisions that seemingly had little to do with cyberbullying, including terrorism and theft of cable. While the government has tried to justify the omnibus approach on the grounds that it is modernizing investigative powers in the Criminal Code, it is striking that some MPs have claimed that there is an even more direct link.
Bob Dechert, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, said the following during debate on Bill C-13 in the House of Commons:
With respect to the cable, I would like the member to consider if his cable were being tapped into by someone who was transmitting child pornography over the Internet, or if his home Wi-Fi was being tapped into by someone who was using it to cyberbully another child, he would want to know about that and he would want that to stop. The modernization of those provisions is simply to bring them up to date.
The amendments proposed on those long-standing offences of stealing cable are already in the Criminal Code in section 327. They simply update the telecommunication language to expand the conduct, to make it consistent with other offences, such as importation and makes available to the prohibited conduct, which is also set out in section 327. These are really in the manner of housekeeping amendments, which need to be done to make those particular provisions more effective.
However, I would like him to think about the potential for someone who is doing cyberbullying, transmitting child sexual images, or perhaps planning a terrorist act, doing it by tapping into some law-abiding citizen’s cable or Wi-Fi Internet access.
In other words, Dechert is suggesting that accessing a neighbour’s cable or wireless Internet access might somehow be linked to planning a terrorist attack, sending child pornography, or engaging in cyberbullying. I would happy to think about the potential for cable theft to play a role in terrorist plots. In fact, I think most would agree that there is no likelihood whatsoever and that the government should stop trying link provisions in their “cyberbullying bill” that have nothing to do with cyberbullying.