Tuesday August 21, 2012
in the Toronto Star on August 19, 2012 as Public Safety Shuffle
Could Allow for an Internet Surveillance Restart
Sometime in the next few weeks, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is
expected to be appointed to the Manitoba Court of Appeal. The Toews
appointment is among the worst kept secrets in Ottawa, with the move
causing a domino effect that will lead to a new minister and an
opportunity for a fresh start on Internet surveillance legislation,
one of the government's biggest political blunders to date.
Toews infamously introduced the Internet surveillance bill, often
referred to as lawful access, by stating that critics of the bill
could either stand with the government or with child pornographers.
The comments sparked outrage from across the political spectrum as
Canadians questioned the need for the legislation, the lack of
privacy safeguards, and the divisive communications strategy.
Within days, the bill was dead in the water, stuck in political
limbo with the government unwilling to place it on the House of
Commons agenda to allow for a few hours of debate so it could be
sent to committee for further study. The bill remained stuck
at first reading for months, one of the few government bills to
effectively die after introduction.
With an upcoming opening at Public Safety, the government has at
least two options. One approach is based on the premise that the
controversy over the bill was due primarily to the messenger and not
the substance of the bill. If the government determines that Toews
was to blame, a new minister may simply tweak the communications
strategy and push the bill through the legislative process.
Alternatively, a new minister provides a convenient opportunity for
an Internet surveillance restart. The change in ministers would
allow the government to walk away from Bill C-30 since new ministers
often seek to place their own stamp on department policies and
priorities. A fresh approach could include scrapping the bill,
launching a public consultation, or asking a House of Commons
committee to study the issue before moving ahead with new
The different lawful access possibilities are reminiscent of the
public battle over copyright reform in 2007. After then Industry
Minister Jim Prentice faced a public backlash over planned
legislation, the government delayed introducing the copyright bill
just hours before it was to have been tabled. The bill sat on the
notice paper for six months as an internal debate raged over whether
to introduce it largely unchanged (but with a new communications
strategy) or to scrap it and go back to the drawing board.
The government opted for the first option, introducing the bill in
June 2008. The bill faced the expected criticism and died soon
thereafter. With a change in minister - Tony Clement became Industry
minister after a fall election - the government started over,
beginning with a national copyright consultation in 2010.
Several years later, the government faces many of the same political
and policy dynamics with an unpopular Internet bill and questions
about whether it can be saved. While it may be politically tempting
to stay the course with a new minister, the better approach would be
to start over.
Dropping Bill C-30 would send a strong signal that the government is
prepared to re-examine the issue, starting with a full public
consultation on how to best balance the need for online security
with the public interest of appropriate privacy safeguards.
Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and
E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can
reached at email@example.com or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.
TagsShareTuesday August 21, 2012
Wednesday June 20, 2012
For the second time this year, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has
found himself at the centre of a major privacy backlash. In February,
Toews was the lead on Bill C-30, the Internet surveillance legislation
that sparked a huge public
that forced the government to shelve the bill within ten days. While
Toews maintains the legislation will return (and implausibly argues
that it could have assisted in the Magnotta investigation), it hasn't
moved in months.
The toxic connection between Toews and privacy escalated over the
weekend with a report
that Canada Border Services has installed surveillance equipment in the
Ottawa airport that will allow for eavesdropping on traveller
conversations. The report led to immediate questions in the House of
Commons with Toews defending the practices and even revealing
that the eavesdropping activities may be more extensive than initially
reported. A day later, Toews was backtracking, announcing
that the eavesdropping plans were on hold pending a review from the
Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
That's a start (the federal commissioner's office expressed
that no privacy impact assessment (PIA) has been filed), but frankly it
isn't nearly good enough to address the privacy concerns associated
with this issue.
TagsShareWednesday June 20, 2012
Wednesday May 09, 2012
Safety Report on Plans and Priorities
for the coming year include a commitment to advance lawful access
legislation and an allocation of $2.1 million specifically earmarked
for the issue.
TagsShareWednesday May 09, 2012
Monday April 23, 2012
Last week, I posted on
the Public Safety Canada seeming attempt to circumvent
the government's spectrum consultation by submitting dual letters - a
public letter expressing mild concern with foreign ownership and a
secret letter warning of "considerable risks". While that approach
raises serious concerns that undermine public confidence in the
consultation process, Public
Safety's detailed response (which is available on the Industry
Canada site) anticipates the fight over Bill C-30 by specifically
claiming that opening the Canadian telecom sector to foreign
competition increases the necessity
of lawful access legislation:
TagsShareMonday April 23, 2012
|<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 Next > End >>|
|Results 1 - 4 of 10|