Privacy Commissioner of Canada on Lawful Access: Deep Concerns

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart has written a public letter to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to express her deep concerns with forthcoming lawful access legislation. Stoddart’s letter notes:

Despite repeated calls, no systematic case has yet been made to justify the extent of the new investigative capabilities that would have been created by the bills. Canadian authorities have yet to provide the public with evidence to suggest that CSIS or Canadian police cannot perform their duties under the current regime.   One-off cases and isolated incidents should not prove the rule, nor should exigent or emergency circumstances, for which there are already Criminal Code provisions.
As well, if the concern of law enforcement agencies is that it is difficult to obtain warrants or judicial authorization in a timely way, these administrative challenges should be addressed by administrative solutions rather than by weakening long-standing legal principles that uphold  Canadians’ fundamental freedoms.

I am also concerned about the adoption of lower thresholds for obtaining personal information from commercial enterprises.  The new powers envisaged are not limited to specific, serious offences or urgent or exceptional situations.  In the case of access to subscriber data, there is not even a requirement for the commission of a crime to justify access to personal information – real names, home address, unlisted numbers, email addresses, IP addresses and much more – without a warrant. Only prior court authorization provides the rigorous privacy protection Canadians expect.

In my view, the government has not convincingly demonstrated that there are no less privacy-invasive alternatives available to achieve its stated purpose.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews responded within hours to Stoddart’s letter by indicating that the government has no plans to change its approach to the lawful access legislation.


  1. James Plotkin says:

    This is really sad. I wonder what will happen when the first case over e-mail snooping or location tracking goes to court here. The US Supreme Court will be deciding a GPS location tracking case this term. I only fear that if a similar case makes it to the SCC our new conservative appointees may do a hatchet job on our civil liberties.

    Not a good day for Canada…

  2. Canada will soon disapear
    It will be renamed Oceania…

    now repeat after me:
    War is peace,
    Ignorance is strength,
    Slavery is freedom.

  3. What is the actual mandate of this legislation?

    There are too many similarities with how this came to be and and C-11, I get the distinct feeling this is driven by US media interests who want to gain access to ISP user information without all the red-tape of pesky subpoenas and due process. Could this legislation be used and abused in such a way? Is there anything to stop authorities, or others, from randomly snooping about without just cause?

  4. While everyone is looking at the TPMs…
    …our privacy is being given away. And what’s the motive? What crimes are being committed that such a measure is necessary on this scale?

    Proper consideration of privacy rights versus law enforcement needs in every case should be of even greater concern than the TPM issue.

  5. Harper government basically saying: ‘We do not care about public privacy, nor do we care about providing proof that this is needed. We’ll do what we want to do. Screw you, Canadians, we’re in power now! Bwahahahaah!’

  6. Not to be alarmist, but this article indicates the future of the Canadian internet if Lawful Access and the full range of Harper Government initiatives are implemented:
    Note that a lot of the banned posts in China concern political freedom, not child porn.