Yesterday I appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to discuss Bill C-13, the lawful access and cyberbullying bill. My comments focused on three issues: immunity for voluntary disclosure, the low threshold for transmission data warrants, and the absence of reporting and disclosure requirements.
As Committee chair Mike Wallace discussed plans for further work on the bill, it became apparent that the government intends to move quickly without the opportunity to hear from any Canadian privacy commissioner. Only two more days of witnesses are scheduled (the committee is desperate to hear from Facebook) and then it plans to move to clause-by-clause review of the bill.
Given that lawful access has been the subject of more than a decade of debate, the likelihood that the bill will pass through the committee stage without hearing from a single privacy commissioner is shocking. In fact, leading privacy groups such as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, and CIPPIC have all been told that there is unlikely to be spots for them at committee. The exclusion of these groups – along with the absence of any federal or provincial commissioners – undermines the entire review process. There may be differing views on the lawful access provisions (the bill is certainly far better than the prior Bill C-30 and its predecessor but still needs improvement), but a fair and effective legislative process should ensure that leading experts are given the opportunity to voice their views.