Open Letter to Canadian MPs: Vote Against Conservatives’ Bill C-13
More than 30 individuals and organizations concerned about women’s equality online are calling on Canadian MPs to vote against the Conservatives’ Bill C-13 on Monday, October 20.
“The safety and security of women and girls and their right to express themselves online require that police and the criminal justice system are equipped with the tools they need to fight cyber misogyny and gender-based abuse online,” the letter reads. “However, Bill C-13 goes too far.”
Bill C-13, the deceptively named “Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act,” is a Big Brother-style piece of legislation. The bill expands the scope of warrantless, voluntary disclosure of Canadians’ personal and online information.
According to one of Canada’s leading privacy experts, Prof. Michael Geist: “Bill C-13 proposes to expand warrantless disclosure of subscriber information to law enforcement by including an immunity provision from any criminal or civil liability (including class action lawsuits) for companies that preserve personal information or disclose it without a warrant.”
In June, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that warantless disclosures are unconstitutional. Experts have also argued that Bill C-13 is a revised version of Bill C-30 or “Protecting Children From Internet Predators Act,” the controversial online spying legislation the Conservatives killed in 2012 after fierce opposition from Canadians.
Soon after the bill was tabled in the House last fall, the then federal privacy commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, said the bill lacked “accountability and reporting mechanisms to shed light on new investigative powers.” In a recent scathing letter addressed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, over 30 Canadian privacy experts said Bill C-13 revealed “Canada’s growing privacy deficit.”
The signatories to the letter are urging Canadian MPs to “demand instead a legislative response to cyber misogyny that holds online harassers and abusers accountable, without undue sacrifice of internet users’ privacy rights.”
Here’s the full text of the letter:
October 17, 2014
An Open Letter to Members of Parliament
On Monday, October 20, you will be asked to vote on Bill C-13: The Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act. We the undersigned individuals and organizations concerned with women’s equality online call on you to vote against this flawed piece of legislation and demand accountability for cyber-stalkers and harassers that does not unduly infringe privacy rights.
Since Bill C-13 was first tabled in November 2013, dozens of community organizations, internet privacy experts, lawyers, academics, and the country’s Privacy Commissioner have called on the federal government to split the bill into two, and to pass the provisions that address the non-consensual sharing of intimate images and gender-based hate speech online. The provisions expanding warrantless access to internet subscriber information, a practice recently held to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in R v Spencer, must, at the very least, be subjected to additional scrutiny and analysis by constitutional experts.
Addressing the non-consensual distribution of intimate images – a form of sexualized violence targeted mainly at women and girls – is absolutely critical. While a criminal law response is only one part of the solution, the provisions of Bill C-13 making it an offence to share an intimate image of someone without their consent are a critical component of accountability for those who would use the Internet to shame, harass, and intimidate women and girls. Making the non-consensual distribution of intimate images a criminal offence is a much-needed and overdue legal reform. Passage of such a law would send a strong message to would-be abusers and hackers that this behaviour is criminal in nature and will not be ignored. It would also strengthen the legal response to these kinds of cases, and encourage victims to come forward when they have been targeted. Had such targeted legislation been proposed, we would have been pleased to support it, and have little doubt it would have passed easily into law.
Instead, however, Bill C-13 gives police easier access to the metadata that internet service providers keep on their customers, and would give immunity to companies that turn this kind of information over to police without a warrant. As you have heard from countless experts already, including some of the undersigned organizations,1 these provisions are deeply problematic and are likely unconstitutional.
The safety and security of women and girls and their right to express themselves online require that police and the criminal justice system are equipped with the tools they need to fight cyber misogyny and gender-based abuse online. However, Bill C-13 goes too far. As Carol Todd, the mother of a teen girl who was subjected to months of online harassment and sexual extortion before committing suicide as a result, told the parliamentary committee reviewing this bill: “We should not have to choose between our privacy and our safety. We should not have to sacrifice our children’s privacy rights to make them safe from cyberbullying, ‘sextortion’ and revenge pornography.”
Please vote against Bill C-13 on Monday, and demand instead a legislative response to cyber misogyny that holds online harassers and abusers accountable, without undue sacrifice of internet users’ privacy rights.
Action Canada for Population and Development
Amata Transition House
Atira Women’s Resource Society
Battered Women’s Support Services
BC Society of Transition Houses
Canadian Council of Muslim Women
Canadian Federation for Sexual Health
National Association of Women and the Law
Native Women’s Association of Canada
Parent Support Services Society of BC
Salmo Community Resource Services
Second Story Women’s Centre
Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter
West Coast Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund
Ann Rauhala, Associate Professor, School of Journalism, Ryerson University
Colleen Westendorf, Former co-organizer for SlutWalk Toronto, feminist, writer
Emma Woolley, columnist on gender & technology with the Globe and Mail
Liane Balaban, founder of Crankytown.com
Jarrah Hodge, Canadian feminist blogger and Editor of Gender-Focus.com
Jennie Faber, Director, Dames Making Games
Jesse Hirsh, President Metaviews.ca
Julie S. Lalonde, advocate for sexual assault survivors
Lyndsay Kirkham, Professor of English, Department of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Humber College
Sarah Ratchford, Lady Business columnist, Vice Canada
Soraya Chemaly, writer and activist
Steph Guthrie, feminist advocate, founder of Women in Toronto Politics
Tracey Young, MSW, RSW, Social work advocate, Catalyst Enterprises BC
Joyce Pielou, BSW, Child and Family Counsellor*
Charan Gill, CEO, Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS)*
*Signed on after letter was sent to MPs and published online.
1 See e.g. West Coast LEAF, #CyberMisogyny: Using and Strengthening Canadian Legal Responses to Gendered Hate and Harassment Online (June 2014), online; and West Coast LEAF’s submission to the House Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Bill C-13 (May 2014) online.