Good news — Bill C-30, the warrantless wiretapping “you’re either with us or you’re with the child pornographers“, is dead in the water.
The bad news — the Harper government has renamed it Bill C-55, made it secret until it’s been introduced to Parliament — because, after all, why do the peons need to know when their rights are being trampled on? — and have Bill C-12 (a.k.a. PIPEDA) waiting in the ranks just in case.
So what does Tyrant-in-Waiting Harper have in store for us with C-55? Let’s have a look at some of the highlights:
2. Section 183 of the Criminal Code is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order:
“police officer” means any officer, constable or other person employed for the preservation and maintenance of the public peace;
We can hire someone under the auspices of “public peace” to spy on you; we’re no longer limiting this to just cops.
184.4 A police officer may intercept, by means of any electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or other device, a private communication if the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that
(a) the urgency of the situation is such that an authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision of this Part;
(b) the interception is immediately necessary to prevent an offence that would cause serious harm to any person or to property; and
(c) either the originator of the private communication or the person intended by the originator to receive it is the person who would commit the offence that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim, or intended victim, of the harm.
Any “police officer” (see previous section), can spy on you if they believe you’re going to break the law. How do you know they believe it? Why, you just have to take their word for it. Oh, and it’s not just limited to the internet; they can spy on you through your phone, by placing a bug in your place (or some other similar means), intercepting your mail, grabbing post-it notes stuck to your computer, etc. Also, if the “police” “believe” you’re likely to be the victim of a crime, they can spy on you as well. Basically, you’re going to be spied on. Period.
(1) The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness shall, as soon as possible after the end of each year, prepare a report relating to
(a) authorizations for which that Minister and agents to be named in the report who were specially designated in writing by thatMinister for the purposes of section 185 applied and to the interceptions made under those authorizations in the immediately preceding year;
(b) authorizations given under section 188 for which peace officers to be named in the report who were specially designated by that Minister for the purposes of that section applied and to the interceptions made under
those authorizations in the immediately preceding year; and
(c) interceptions made under section 184.4 in the immediately preceding year if the interceptions
relate to an offence for which proceedings may be commenced by the Attorney General of Canada.
The Minister of Public Safety is going to prepare a yearly report on who’s spying on you. Unfortunately, there’s no mention that this report needs to be made public, and furthermore, unless the spying results in charges, there’s no need to include any details in there (i.e. if you’re being spied on for no purpose, there’s no reason anyone needs to know about it). This is further spelled out in additional sections; only where charges have been laid does anything need to be reported on.
Granted that the bill isn’t a completed document yet, and it rests on the existing Criminal Code so my analysis isn’t exactly thorough (and to be honest, I would love for someone to prove me wrong), but I can’t help but question if any of the clauses above (which pretty much comprise the entire current version), do what the bill’s preamble claim that they do:
(a) requires the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Attorney General of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4;
(b) provides that a person who has been the object of such an interception must be notified of the interception within a specified period;
(c) narrows the class of individuals who can make such an interception;
(d) limits those interceptions to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.
As usual, I invite you to read the whole thing yourself and, if possible, have a gander at the sections of the Criminal Code that it’s attempting to change. And while you’re at it, I would challenge you to ask who, exactly, all of these laws are intended to benefit. It’s unlikely that Joe Commonman could list 1% of all the laws he’s being subjected to, yet is expected to abide by, and simultaneously isn’t allowed to claim ignorance of in the courts (unless, of course, you’re Rob Ford).
Common Law it most certainly is not.