Maher: Government making it easier to spy on Canadians without warrants or oversight
Conservatives try to sell intrusions into our privacy by linking them to child protection
May 17th, 2014 - 9:21am
Carol Todd appeared before the Commons justice committee on Tuesday to tell the terrible story of her daughter, Amanda, who took her life in 2012 after being sexually exploited and bullied by online predators.
Todd was testifying about bill C-13, which will make it illegal to share an intimate image of someone without that person’s consent.
But while the government’s communications effort around the bill focuses on preventing these tragedies, most of the 70-page bill is about other things, including a clause to protect communication companies from liability when they hand private information to the government.
Todd doesn’t like that idea.
“I don’t want to see our children victimized again by losing privacy rights,” she told MPs. “I am troubled by some of these provisions condoning the sharing of the private information of Canadians without proper legal process.”
Todd called on the government to split the cyberbullying provisions from the rest of the bill, trying to separate the emotional business of child protection from the more delicate question of what private information the police should be able to get without a warrant.
The government swiftly rejected Todd’s proposal, in keeping with its pattern of linking the two issues, likely because the Conservatives know that the only way to get the public to swallow unacceptable intrusions into our privacy is by linking them to child protection.
Bill C-13 is the child of C-30, which was abandoned by the government after previous public safety minister Vic Toews said his Liberal critic could “either stand with us or with the child pornographers.”
Unlike C-30, C-13 does not require service providers to hand over personal information to police without a warrant, but it allows them to do so, which, in practical terms, is the same thing.
This will provide legal cover for what they are already doing. Last month the privacy commissioner reported that in 2011, government agencies requested data from telecoms and social media companies more than a million times.
What kind of data? The government won’t say. Conservative MPs recently voted down an NDP motion to make public the number of warrantless disclosures from telecom firms.
When asked about this in the House, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and Justice Minister Peter MacKay give misleading answers, blathering on about warrants when none are required and giving assurances that contradict the legislation.
This week, Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay, joined with them in disingenuity when she responded to a question in the House about a clause buried in C-31, a massive budget omnibus bill.
The bill will allow Canada Revenue Agency officials to give police taxpayer information if officials have “reasonable grounds to believe” that certain offences have been committed.
Blacklock’s Reporter reported that, according to lawyers and police, this would allow any clerk at the CRA to hand confidential information to any police officer on a fishing expedition with no paper trail.
Currently, tax information can only be released by a judge. If the Tories pass this clause unamended, it will no longer be judges making that call, but CRA officials, which is scary.
When NDP MP Murray Rankin asked Findlay about this in the House, though, she scoffed.
“LET me be clear,” she said. “Information cannot be shared on the mere suspicion of criminal activity or based on a request initiated by law enforcement authorities.”
That’s not what the bill says.
When the Chronicle Herald sought an explanation, the Finance Department pointed to the threat of child porn, which just doesn’t make sense.
The government is stealthily expanding its legal authority to secretly invade Canadians’ privacy on a massive scale. When called on to explain, it is disingenuous. When cornered, it points to child pornography.
The potential for abuse is shocking. The only thing preventing dirty tricks is the good character of our police, spies and politicians.
Your computer and phone are open to secret warrantless intrusion without oversight or accountability.
In 2012, the government eliminated the office of the CSIS inspector general, who kept an eye on the spies. Some of that work is now done by the Security Intelligence Review Committee, a part time board.
One former chairman, Arthur Porter, is in prison in Panama fighting extradition to Canada on fraud charges. Another, Chuck Strahl, resigned after the Vancouver Observer revealed he was lobbying for Enbridge.
The government has declined to back Senator Hugh Segal’s effort to establish an all-party parliamentary intelligence oversight committee in Canada, like the ones in the United States and Britain.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who revealed the shocking scale of the Americans’ worldwide data harvesting, reports in his new book that the Canadian Security Establishment has been working around the world with the National Security Agency. It has “opened covert sites at the request of NSA,” one leaked report says. The NSA shares “technological developments, cryptological capabilities, software capabilities and resources for state-of-the-art processing and analytical efforts.”
The spooks at the NSA are likely delighted that their Canadian partners don’t have to deal with oversight by lawmakers.
You have to wonder what they’re up to.