Many Canadians are asking whether anything can be done to rein in the almost unimaginable surveillance powers revealed by Edward Snowden. From our research and consultation with privacy experts, there are a number of practical steps that can be taken to put a stop to surveillance abuses and better protect the privacy of Canadians.
On Wednesday our parliament passed bill C-51; a bill which takes a sledgehammer to the principles in the Charter. How could a controversial bill with 52 per cent of Canadians opposing it and only 33 per cent supporting it pass? Ignoring the voices of your constituents is dangerous, especially in an election year.
In the space of a few short months since Bill C-51 was announced, hundreds of thousands of people have taken action to stop it: signing petitions, writing letters to local newspapers, phoning and writing to their member of Parliament, and hitting the streets in nationwide demonstrations in over 70 communities across Canada.
Small businesses across Canada are speaking up to warn the government about the economic damage that its "secret police" Bill C-51 will inflict on our economy. If Bill C-51 is passed, it will change Canada's economic climate for the worse, notably by harming Canadian commerce, trade, and data security. This upsurge in opposition from small businesses couldn't be more timely: committee hearings on the Bill are continuing today in the Senate, while the House of Commons could hold its final vote in just days.
Even after the Conservative government buckled to pressure to amend the anti-terrors laws, Canadians can still be deemed too dangerous to travel by airline and won't be allowed to challenge the "evidence" against them. As lawyer and author Faisal Kutty puts it, Canadian Muslims can be considered "too guilty to fly, but too innocent to charge." Bill C-51 is a reckless attempt to win over an understandably fearful electorate under the pretense of fighting terrorism. Marginalizing the very Canadians who are on the front-lines of this struggle is worse than poor policy -- it's a threat to all of us.
Huge numbers of Canadians, including key Ottawa decision-makers, are pushing back hard against the government's Bill C-51, which proposes unprecedented new powers for Canada's security agencies. The bill effectively turns CSIS into a secret police force and would place every Canadian under a government microscope.
Anyone can be a victim of surveillance. If you've used any of over a hundred popular file-hosting websites in the past three years, chances are you've had your online activity collected and analyzed by CSEC, acting without a warrant and with no independent oversight. There is a great deal that can be done to tackle our privacy deficit.
The Harper government's newly introduced "anti-terrorism" legislature, Bill C-51, has been roundly condemned as an assault on privacy and free speech -- and rightly so. Besides hunting down would-be terrorists, the new laws could be used to stifle dissent, remove due process and lead to the creation of a secret police force, critics say. In a supposedly enlightened and democratic country such as Canada, these would be unwelcome developments to say the least. But there is a deeper cost to eroding privacy than just the spurring of undesirable changes in external entities such as courts and communications networks. Also at stake is the very freedom of Canadians to internally determine who they are and want to be.
Even more disturbing, it seems that CSE deliberately targeted Canadian IP addresses in violation of the law and contrary to repeated government assurances. They then cross-referenced the IP addresses of file-hosting users with other databases to learn the identity of these users. So basically, ending up as a target for in-depth surveillance could be as easy as clicking on a link.
Like an overwhelming number of Canadians, you said -- publicly -- that you didn't want to grant telecom providers immunity for handing over our sensitive private information to government without a warrant. But then at the last minute something changed. You voted for the Bill in Parliament, and I don't mind telling you that was a huge disappointment. I also can't help but detect a hint of shame in the blog post that you wrote explaining why you turned around and supported the Bill after speaking out so vociferously against it.
Minister MacKay's lack of respect for Canadians is symptomatic of a government with a terrible track record on privacy issues. They continue to resist calls to take common sense steps to rein in Canada's out-of-control spy agency CSEC -- an agency that just 8 per cent of Canadians trust with their private information, according to a recent poll. The CSEC was caught red-handed collecting hugely sensitive information about law-abiding Canadian air travellers, and storing our private information in giant, insecure databases to be shared with their U.S. partners at the NSA.