Reacting To Lawful Access: Comparing the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP

Earlier this week, I posted on the Liberals first reaction to Bill C-46, part one of the lawful access package.  Rather than focusing on substantive issues, the immediate response was "what took you so long," an obvious effort to appear even tougher on crime.  C-46 was sent to committee for further study on Tuesday.  Immediately afterward, C-47, the other half of lawful access came up for second reading.  This part of the bill is particularly problematic is it raises the prospect of mandatory disclosure of personal information without a warrant and requires ISPs to install new surveillance capabilities on their networks. 

The warrantless access to information is incredibly troubling as it runs counter to a pledge from the previous Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, has only been supported a mischaracterized incident from earlier this year, and raises fundamental problems with the privacy vs. security balance. In fact, the bill goes even further than the Liberal version of the bill from years ago, by adopting an exceptionally broad definition of customer name and address information.

Once again, the reaction to the bill was telling. 

The Liberals adopted the "what took you so long" position, with MPs Dan McTeague and Andrew Kania pledging their support and asking why it took so long to bring the bill to the House.  Mark Holland did the same thing and only acknowledged the privacy concerns when asked about it by NDP MP Linda Duncan.

In contrast, the NDP's Don Davies cited concerns from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the earlier pledge from Day, the misleading information from Van Loan, concluding that:

New Democrats will work with this bill, but we cannot and we will not sacrifice Canadians' rights to privacy in the name of security. Canadians deserve both. We can have both. We can have security. We can have civil rights. That is what Canada is about.

He added "this bill is fundamentally flawed…Parliamentarians should send this bill back for further study by the minister right now" [rather than send to committee].

What reaction did that elicit from Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber?

I am a little puzzled and confused by my friend's answer to my question. I am glad he thinks that protecting Canadians on roads is important, but why does he think that is more important than protecting children from being lured over the Internet?

Davies response is worth quoting in full, since it provides precisely the right way to respond to efforts to characterize anyone who expresses concern about privacy rights as somehow not caring about the safety of children:

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised that my colleague would act that way. I respect his work in the public safety committee and have seen him act with courage and independence on many occasions, as I did today. I am surprised that such a facile and unfair question would be put.
How does he get out of anything I have said that by any preponderance of imagination we would be soft on luring children on the Internet? That has nothing to do with this bill.

Bill C-46, which we supported earlier today, makes it a crime in the Criminal Code for anyone to lure people over the digital media. We do not have to talk about that in terms of this bill because this bill does not have anything to do with luring children. This bill has to do with making telecommunications companies have equipment to preserve data, which we support . It has to do with getting basic subscriber information to the police. The only question is whether or not we should do that with judicial oversight. I am surprised that my hon. colleague, who I know is a lawyer, would not understand and support that very important concept of privacy and civil rights in this country.

The exchanges point to the future fight over lawful access – the Conservatives will claim anyone that expresses concern doesn't care about the safety of children and the Liberals will ask what took so long.  At this stage, it appears only the NDP recognize the legitimate concerns associated with lawful access.


  1. Praise the Lord for the NDP
    *only the NDP recognize the legitimate concerns associated with lawful access*

    So why the NDP was behind the storming of the House earlier this week?

  2. Can’t believe I end up supporting the NDP
    A long time conservative I am dismayed that such a fundamental right to privacy issue are not a concern for our conservative government. Leaves me wondering where true conservatives have gone

  3. Children as a scape goat. Disgusting

  4. Laurel L. Russwurm says:

    Mom says:
    The most important job I have ever had or ever will have in my life is my job as a mother. One of the fundamental parental roles is protecting our children. And yes, “luring” is bad. But with access to the right kind of “private information” we could end up creating “super-luring”.

    Without judicial oversight, all it takes is one person of low morals and high access.

    Allowing any invasion of privacy is incredibly dangerous to our children.

  5. Devil's Advocate says:

    Shades of Dubya…
    “…why does he think that is more important than protecting children from being lured over the Internet?”

    In other words, “You’re either with us, or with the TERRORISTS!”

    Canadian politics has truly fallen into the same toilet as those south of our border.

  6. Judicial oversight IS necessary…
    I encourage everybody to visit the Injustice Everywhere (National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project) site ( to see just how important oversight is. Although the site is USA specific, I’m sure the same kind of stuff takes place here in Canada to a lesser degree… it just isn’t reported.

    They log and occasionally audit when police check license plates on their in-car computers. They should do the same thing if they get subscriber information from ISPs. There MUST be an audit trail!

  7. Taking into account that C-47 would likely be struck down by the courts, I honestly can’t see this thing even passing the Senate in its current form. Say what you will about the Red Chamber, but even those unelected hacks are capable of recognizing bad legislation when they see it.

  8. Scott Elcomb says:

    At this stage…
    …”it appears only the NDP recognize the legitimate concerns associated with lawful access.”

    Hopefully not for long. We (the Pirate Party of Canada) are seriously looking at this issue as well. As we’re still organizing it will take some time before we have the reach of mainstream parties, but we will be speaking out on Lawful Access.

  9. Children? BS!
    All the mined data will head straight for the coffers of the American DHS, CIA and FBI. They will likely be bankrolling the equipment for the ISP’s too.

  10. Give Jeff Power a cigar …
    I have the same problem, Jeff, although I was a PC, not C. The Liberals are coming close to losing my support too. None of the parties who should get it, have a clue.

    In the meantime … I’ve hooked up VPN … get my privacy protected and get Hulu out of the deal too!

  11. I think part of the problem is just the general sense of oneupsmanship that usually accompanies minority parliaments in this country. Every party is in a constant state of election readiness, and so they spend all their time pulling purely political stunts to curry favour with the electorate. That’s exactly what this lawful access legislation is; a political stunt designed to make the government look tough on crime, and the opposition parties look weak if they choose not to support it. As I said before, C-47 is unlikely to withstand a constitutional challenge before the courts, and I think the government knows this. One has to wonder if the either party would have bothered tabling such legislation if they had a majority.

  12. “… but why does he think that is more important than protecting children from being lured over the Internet?”

    Now where have I heard THAT before? Oh, that’s right…

  13. The privacy commissioner writes a clear and comprehensive analysis of the problems with this Bill. It is a must-read for any MP who supported moving it to committee.