Liberal MP Reintroduces Lawful Access as Private Members Bill

As Liberal leader Stephane Dion promised earlier this month, Liberal MP Marlene Jennings on Friday reintroduced lawful access legislation.  The Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act (MITA) is now Bill C-416, bringing back the controversial provisions last introduced in the fall of 2005 that include the installation of new surveillance capabilities within Canada's ISPs and the ability for law enforcement to more easily obtain subscriber information. 

I last wrote about lawful access in the fall, when I reported on new government documents obtained under the Access to Information Act that revealed a divide and conquer strategy employed by the government to strategically minimize stakeholder criticism.  Those documents also indicated that officials have expressed internal concern about the privacy protections in the face of new technologies. 

Although many people expected the Conservatives to reintroduce MITA, as the months passed by it became increasingly clear that they were sensitive to the political cost associated with lawful access.  Indeed, the ATIP also included a review of the public response to MITA which acknowledged that "although the public generally responds positively to the idea of 'getting tough on crime', proposals to introduce new investigative tools raise concerns about the surveillance powers of the state and the public’s underlying anxiety is heightened by the media and statements of privacy and civil liberties advocates."  Given the talk of a spring election and public concern associated with greater Internet surveillance, the Liberal decision to bring back lawful access as private members' bill is likely to be little more than an unfortunate gesture, yet it serves as a reminder that this issue will continue to percolate for the foreseeable future.


  1. Web Dev.
    Thank you Michael for keeping us all so well informed. It scares me every time I see something like this that we’re headed down the same road as the US. Thanks for being the watchdog I can consult to keep up-to-date on this type of stuff.

  2. Recently, Canadian law enforcement gained the ability to block certain websites, without warrant or oversight, through a third party (Childfind Manitoba) by claiming it was necessary to combat child pornography. And you supported this, Michael (albeit tentatively).

    In order to have C-416 passed, all these same parties have to do is to promote it as another necessary tool to fight child pornography.

    And what will you do then, Michael?

  3. Honeypot surveilance
    This bill does not appear to make a distinction between a residential subscriber and a subscriber of a website/server hosting service.

    Would this not allow a site like Voices-For-Change, or to be monitored and those accessing the site logged, without either the site-owners knowledge or the knowledge of the user accessing the site.

    Could this not be used a form of honeypot surveilance technique to determine political networks, trade unionists or other types of activist groups that would rather their membership remain private?

  4. Why must MPs continually put forward bills such as this? Given the choice of benefiting the Canadian people or impeding on their privacy, why must it remain the latter that is usually chosen?

    I am a little surprised the Liberals would choose to bring it up now, though, being the opposition of a minority government. It’s not a wise move for the opposition to table a bill that dictates a ‘big brother’ mentality.