The privacy commissioner and C-13

Scrutiny of a contentious bill


C-13, the government’s cyber-bullying and lawful access legislation, received its first two hours of debate in the House yesterday.

Meanwhile, privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart has released the following statement on the bill.

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.


The privacy commissioner and C-13

  1. I still have issues with the voluntary disclosure aspect of the bill. In this sense: when the police invite you to come down to the station and make a “voluntary” statement, we know what that means between the lines. If you’re squeaky clean, no problem, you go. If however you baulk, how long before that voluntary disclosure becomes something else?
    Voluntary can be a loaded and subjective term – it carries a warning. It can be a a tool for intimidation and quiet compulsion, even submission. I simply don’t trust this govt even with such a dubious fail safe turned on.

    • So you want the government to pass laws that can’t be enforced? How Liberal of you.

      • Overlooking the fact that you very likely approved of the Toews bill, for once you may have asked a good question.
        It is hard to conceive of the govt putting it any other way, so this change probably makes sense in the end.

  2. This quote

    “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.”

    just illustrates how bush league and arrogant this CPOC government is. Nobody can be allowed to interfere with internal echo chamber and ignorance that passes as qualifications to gain senior office in Harper’s government. This is the reason why there are so many legal challenges to legislation pushed by the ignorant reform types; all at our expense.
    They waste our money twice – once by introducing ill-thought out and illegal legislation and twice by having to defend their rubbish in court.
    Their hubris knows no bounds.

    • On the other hand this is what Minister Peter Mackay said in the House of Commons yesterday (at 2:55 in oral questions):

      “Yes, indeed, officials from the Department of Justice did meet with the Privacy Commissioner, at which time the report for cyberbullying between the federal,
      provincial and territorial governments was discussed …”

      Then he goes on to quote her making a vague statement in favour of modernizing the legislation and ends with:

      “We have done our homework. This is a good bill that will help improve public safety online, especially for Canadian children.”

      So which is it, Mr. Mackay? Is Commissioner Stoddart mistaken and doesn’t recall having input on the bill or this another of your creative half-truths in the House?

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