Tuesday October 08, 2013
On the same day that revelations
about CSEC spying on the Brazilian government for economic purposes
generated headlines around the world, the Canadian government rejected
the proposed acquisition of MTS Allstream's Allstream division by
Accelero Capital Holdings, a company co-founded by Naguib Sawiris, an
Egyptian billionaire who first captured Canadian telecom attention by
backing the entry of Wind Mobile. Industry Minister James Moore indicated
that the rejection of the proposed deal involved the national security
provisions of the Investment Canada Act. Both companies expressed
disappointment with the decision, as MTS Allstream noted its surprise and disappointment and Accelero described it as an "unfounded and unexpected decision."
While the decision sends a disturbing signal about the government's
willingness to block foreign investment just months after indicating
that it was open to such investment, it is worth noting that the change
in telecom foreign investment policy was publicly opposed by the Public
Safety Canada. In 2011, Public Safety responded to Industry Canada
questions about changes to the foreign investment restrictions with the following:
It is important to fully appreciate the scope of the potential impact
of reducing or removing restrictions on foreign investment in Canada's
telecommunications sector. The lessening of current restrictions could
create new, and increase existing vulnerabilities in our
telecommunications networks, further exposing them and the users and
services that rely on them, to an increased threat of cyber espionage
and denial of service attacks. It could also impede law enforcement and
national security investigations by further challenging the ability of
authorities to execute judicially authorized warrants to intercept
telecommunications. As options are considered to maximize Canada's
competitiveness in the telecommunications sector, Public Safety
officials will work with Industry Canada to further develop options to
help ensure that any change to the telecommunications market will be
accompanied by necessary security safeguards.
When the Public Safety submission first came to light last year, the
potential application of the national security provisions in the
Investment Canada Act was discussed.
In light of the MTS Allstream decision, it would seem that Public
Safety may have lost the battle to retain foreign investment
restrictions, but has won the war to keep out many potential
competitors. TagsShareTuesday October 08, 2013
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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