The Canadian government's lack of action against spam has been one of the most puzzling policy failures in recent years. While addressing a problem that has grown from a mere nuisance to a costly scourge that raises criminal concerns would seem like a no-brainer, successive Industry Ministers have failed to prioritize the issue. The need for Canadian anti-spam legislation was the unanimous recommendation of the 2005 National Task Force on Spam, which included members from the Internet, marketing, and consumer communities (I was a member of the task force). The final report, which was received with approval from the current Conservative (then Liberal) Minister David Emerson, noted that Canada was quickly becoming one of the only Western countries to neglect the issue and was at risk of developing into a haven for spammers seeking refuge in countries with lax anti-spam regulations.
While a government-backed anti-spam bill is still nowhere to be seen, my weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) focuses on the fact that earlier this month Senator Yoine Goldstein quietly stepped into the policy void by introducing the Anti-Spam Act (ASA). Modeled after widely lauded Australian anti-spam legislation, the ASA is the most comprehensive Canadian anti-spam proposal floated to date and even if it languishes in the Senate (private member's bill rarely become law) it promises to place additional pressure on the government to reveal its own anti-spam plan.