Canada’s privacy czar questions Harper’s cyberbullying Bill C-13

by: Obert Madondo  | Published Nov 28, 2013

Canadians are becoming increasingly concerned that their online privacy is being compromised by government surveillance. Photo: OBERT MADONDO/The Canadian Progressive

Canadians are becoming increasingly concerned that their online privacy is being compromised by government surveillance. Photo: OBERT MADONDO/The Canadian Progressive

Canada’s privacy commissioner is concerned about the Harper government’s new cyberbullying bill.

In a statement issued Thursday, Jennifer Stoddart said Bill C-13, tabled in Parliament last week, lacks “accountability and reporting mechanisms to shed light on new investigative powers”.

In other words, Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Actis a Big Brother-style piece of legislation.

Stoddardts statement justifies civil libertarians’ concerns that the bill grants law enforcement agencies police too much powers to spy on Canadians’ online behaviour. The bill has also been seen as a revised version of the controversial online spying legislation Bill C-30, the “Protecting Children From Internet Predators Act“, which the Conservatives killed last year after fierce opposition from Canadians.

Related: Harper Government to resurrect draconian online spying Bill C-30?

Here’s the full text of the privacy commissioner’s statement:

OTTAWA, November 28, 2013 – Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart today issued the following statement in response to requests for her Office’s preliminary comments on Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act:

My Office is currently reviewing the Bill thoroughly and, in particular, we are examining legal controls over any new investigative powers.  We will make our full comments to Parliament in due course, with the goal of contributing constructively to the eventual study of this Bill in keeping with our role as an Agent of Parliament.

We commend the government for recognizing the gravity of privacy intrusions online, and for proposing action to address the issue of cyberbullying.

We recognize that law enforcement authorities need up-to-date tools to fight online crime at a time of when technologies are changing rapidly, but this must be done in a way that respects Canadians’ fundamental right to privacy.

As for our preliminary observations on Bill C-13, we note that many troubling aspects of the former Bill C-30 have not been repeated, for example, warrantless access to personal information.  However, we have questions about the following issues:

  • new investigative powers, (including preservation orders) proposed by the Bill and the thresholds for their use;
  • the potentially large number of “public officers” who would be able to use these significant new powers; and
  • a lack of accountability and reporting mechanisms to shed light on the use of new investigative powers.

My Office was not consulted on the Bill and the first time we saw a copy was Wednesday, November 20th, when the legislation was tabled. Justice Canada officials met with officials from our Office this summer, at which time we discussed specific recommendations made in a report by Federal-Provincial and Territorial officials on cyberbullying.

We look forward to sharing more comprehensive comments on the Bill with Parliament.

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Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter.com/Obiemad

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Obert Madondo

Publisher and editor
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based blogger, activist, photographer, digital rights enthusiast, former political aide, and former international development administrator. He's the founder and editor of these independent publications: The Canadian Progressive, a political blog dedicated to progressive Canadian journalism; The Zimbabwean Progressive, a political blog dedicated to producing fearless, progressive, adversarial, unapologetic, and activism-oriented Zimbabwean journalism; and Charity Files, a publication dedicated to journalism in the charitable public's interest. Follow Obert on Twitter: @Obiemad