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.