THE BLOG

Could This Be the Antidote to Bill C-51?

05/20/2015 12:41 EDT | Updated 05/20/2016 05:59 EDT
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Today's the big day, folks: Wednesday morning, OpenMedia is launching our positive, pro-privacy action plan, packed with ideas from everyday Canadians about how to roll back Bill C-51, end mass surveillance, and restore the privacy rights of everyone who lives in Canada.

Check out Canada's Privacy Plan right now at PrivacyPlan.ca or download the full 96-page report as a PDF right here.

We wrote this plan together, Canada: this 96-page report is packed with ideas and feedback from over 100,000 Canadians, including over 10,000 of you who used this crowdsourcing tool to provide detailed input on how you want to tackle our privacy deficit.

It's clear from the feedback we've received that Canadians are deeply unhappy with the mess this government has created when it comes to privacy. After all, our plan launches as the government tries to ram its unpopular Bill C-51 through the Senate, a piece of legislation so extreme that experts say it will lead to widespread violations of our Charter rights.

And Bill C-51 is just one aspect of the alarming privacy deficit the government has created. In the last 12 months alone we've seen stunning revelations about how the government's spy agency CSE is spying on Canadians' private online activities, and even on private emails that Canadians send to Members of Parliament. And we've seen Justice Minister Peter MacKay's Online Spying Bill C-13 become law, despite opposition from three in four Canadians.

Enough is enough: if there was one message coming through loud and clear from participants in our crowdsourcing process, it's that Canadians are sick and tired of the seemingly endless series of government attacks on their privacy. As crowdsourcing participant Katherine put it:

"The pendulum has swung WAY too far in the direction of limiting our privacy. Standards need to be adjusted to make privacy the default and transparency must be mandatory."

When we asked people to rank six key privacy priorities, two in particular stood out: Require a warrant for government to spy on personal information, and End blanket surveillance of law-abiding people. Accordingly, we focused first and foremost on tackling these key concerns, while also leaving space to address the range of other problems Canadians raised.

Based on this wealth of grassroots feedback, the report sets out three high-level policy recommendations to roll back our privacy deficit:

  • Get a Warrant: Require government authorities to obtain a warrant to access Canadians' sensitive personal information. The report also proposes tougher privacy laws to roll back the information disclosure provisions of Bill C-51 and ensure government agencies use personal information strictly for the purpose it is provided. Despite the Supreme Court's R. v. Spencer decision last year, much work remains to be done to prevent warrantless access to Canadians' information.

  • End Mass Surveillance: Halt all surveillance activities that involve the warrantless collection of Canadians' personal information, including the bulk collection of deeply revealing metadata. We also propose that surveillance activities require judicial, not political authorization, and that the government cease collecting and analyzing what Canadians say on social media.

  • Embrace Accountability: Ensure strong, independent oversight and review bodies for the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). Rein in the steep costs of surveillance by requiring the Parliamentary Budget Officer and Auditor General to develop clear cost projections for surveillance activities.

We're working with our friends at The Tyee to publish a short series of articles going into more detail on each of these high-level recommendations. And already we're seeing the power these crowdsourced ideas can have, with the report's key recommendations being endorsed by prominent groups from across the political spectrum, from Greenpeace to the National Firearms Association.

For too long, this government has ignored Canadians, undermining their privacy rights while treating the democratic process with contempt. They're trying to keep Canadians in the dark-but as the debate over Bill C-51 has shown, people have had enough of the government's negative approach.

It's time to turn things around. Our positive plan aims to turn this debate on its head, and place the focus squarely on ensuring we have the same high standard of privacy protections for our digital communications as we had in the days of rotary telephones and pen-and-paper letters.

And, best of all, these ideas come straight from you. Check out Canada's Privacy Plan right now at PrivacyPlan.ca and add your voice by sending it to Senators as they prepare for their final crucial vote on Bill C-51.

A version of this article by our David Christopher was originally published by The Tyee, as part of a new series about Canada's Privacy Plan

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