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Joyce Murray, MP


In The House

MP Murray Speaks out Against Bill C-30

Posted on February 28, 2012

Sign the Petition to amend Bill C-30 here to sign right now — and support the Liberal call for judicial oversight on electronic surveillance.

On Tuesday, February 28, MP Murray debated the Liberal Opposition Motion — the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, related to Bill C-30:

That the House recognize: (a) the fundamental right of all Canadians to the freedoms of speech, communication and privacy, and that there must be a clear affirmation on the need for these rights to be respected in all forms of communication; (b) that the collection by government of personal information and data from Canadians relating to their online activities without limits, rules, and judicial oversight constitutes a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ protections against unreasonable search and seizure; (c) that Canadians who have expressed deep concerns about Bill C-30 should not be described as being friends of child pornography or advocates of criminal activity; (d) that the Charter is the guarantor of the basic rights and freedoms of all Canadians; and (e) that the Charter is paramount to any provision of the Criminal Code of Canada; and accordingly the House calls on the Prime Minister to ensure that any legislation put forward by his government respects the provisions of the Charter and its commitment to the principles of due process, respect for privacy and the presumption of innocence.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ms. Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra, Lib.)

“Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for York West.

I am very pleased to speak to the motion today because of the important principles that are so fundamental to Canadian democracy. The motion calls on the House to recognize the fundamental right of all Canadians to freedom of speech, communication, and privacy, and affirms the need for these rights to be respected. It talks about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protection against unreasonable search and seizure. It mentions that any legislation put forward by the government must respect these provisions of the charter and its commitment to the principles of due process, respect for privacy and the presumption of innocence.

A lot of the debate on this today has centred on Bill C-30 and it will be that bill that I address my remarks toward.

I want to quote the interim leader of the Liberal Party because what he has said captures the balance that Parliament needs to find on the bill, and that is “The mark of a democratic society is how it balances collective security with individual rights and freedoms.”

I am not at all objecting to the idea of strengthening the ability for police officers to carry out their surveillance work and their investigative work in an age of Internet and electronic communications. Surely, we do need to update these provisions that are in the laws and that is what the bill has sought to do. In fact, when the attorney general and solicitor general of British Columbia came to Ottawa saying that the province supported the need for new powers, I supported that. It is something we do need to do.

The question is whether this bill achieves that end. I will be speaking about the ways in which it does not find that balance and the ways it, either inadvertently or deliberately, changes the landscape for the public in terms of our security and our right to privacy of information. It makes changes through very vague language and vague concepts that are not well defined in the bill and that are open to subjective interpretation in terms of grounds for accessing people’s information without a warrant.

People across Canada have been concerned about this bill. This is not surprising, given that most of the privacy commissioners across the country have said that the bill goes too far, that it is bad legislation. I will quote the federal Privacy Commissioner who said:

On the balance… the new Bill… contains serious privacy concerns… In particular, we are concerned about access, without a warrant, to subscriber information behind an IP address. Since this broad power is not limited to reasonable grounds to suspect criminal activity or to a criminal investigation, it could affect any law-abiding citizen.

That is a mild comment compared with the comments of the Ontario privacy commissioner who had a great deal of concern about the bill and called it an encroachment of surveillance as it was presently configured in the bill. She said that the bill was wrong. She said that it actually terrified her that this could become the norm, that there was a huge downloading onto websites of information that service providers did because they were unable to serve the one-by-one requirements under the bill. That has happened in other countries. According to the commissioner, this is fundamentally wrong and it flies in the face of freedom and liberty. This freedom is not based on the state access to whatever information it wants on its citizens. This is how she characterized the potential result of the bill.

The state is supposed to have a reason for the collection of information from citizens. It is supposed to be limited for particular purposes that are specifically identified to individuals. Her view is that this principle is under attack with the bill.

The bill creates a structure for this widespread surveillance. Again, I will quote the privacy commissioner of Ontario:

This is going to be like the Fort Knox of information that the hackers and the real bad guys will want to go after. This is going to be a gold mine.

She is also concerned about the new powers created for the police that are designed to obtain access to surveillance data, and about the whole framework that companies will have to put in place by installing equipment for real-time surveillance.

Given the response by privacy commissioners, who know of what they speak, it is not surprising that people in civil society became concerned and started to speak out. At the town hall I hosted last week in Vancouver Quadra, people were very concerned about the change in the tenor of privacy under the bill.

With these kinds of reasonable concerns, it was that much more offensive and insulting when the Minister of Public Safety essentially said that either we agreed with the bill and the government or were on the side of child pornographers. That level of discourse cannot be allowed to continue in this House of Commons. It has undermined any moral authority of that minister with the bill as presented.

It was ironic that afterward the minister had to admit on public television that he had not read the bill and did not actually understand some of its provisions and repercussions. That was after he had made that very offensive statement we are all familiar with.

The bill has had a rocky start. It was not properly thought-out and the consultations were not properly done with privacy commissioners.

I will also give a couple of examples of concerns that were raised by an Internet business CEO and president at my town hall very clearly.

Some of the previous speakers have talked to section 34. However, I am speaking about sections subsections 371(1) and 371(2). This is where the legislation creates a wide class of offences that are vague in description, using terms that could be interpreted by law enforcement with an extremely wide range of discretion. That is the nub of what people are concerned about. Subsection 372(1) says:

Everyone commits an offence who, with intent to injure or alarm a person, conveys information that they know is false, or causes such information to be conveyed by letter or any means of telecommunication.

That is pretty subjective. How does one define the intent to alarm a person? That could be a phone bank calling the constituents of Mount Royal, asking if they knew that their Member of Parliament had stepped down. That could be an alarming piece of information. Therefore, whoever made those calls would actually be committing an offence under this legislation and would be liable to imprisonment for up to two years. I hope the members on the Conservative side of the bench really let that sink in.

That subsection is about conveying information that someone knows is false with the intent to alarm a person. That would be against the law and subject to a jail sentence. Think about how widely that could be interpreted.

Here is another one, subsection 372(2):

Everyone commits an offence who, with intent to alarm or annoy a person.

Has anyone on the Conservative benches ever sent an email with some intent to annoy someone? If so, it would be an offence if they were making an indecent communication. Who is defining what is decent and indecent? Some people think that a photo of clothing that is too tight might be indecent. What about a swear word? It might be considered indecent. If a member opposite sent an email or communication that was indecent but intended to annoy, he or she would then be committing an offence and subject to up to two years in prison.

Also, according to section 184.4, a peace officer may, without a warrant, intercept communication if the peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the urgency of the situation is such that it is necessary. However, who defines that?

The debate that we are having now is one that is raising some very serious issues. My concern is that, despite the good intentions of the NDP and Liberal members, the Conservative government will do what it has been doing for the last seven months and barrel ahead with bad legislation and ignore all of the input from civil society and Members of Parliament to improve the legislation so that it would actually deliver a public good.”

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