Sixty leading Canadian businesspeople, entrepreneurs, and investors, including Flickr cofounder Stewart Butterfield and XML co-creator Tim Bray, have signed the following open letter:
April 21, 2015
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C. M.P.
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Daryl Kramp, M.P.
Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A OA6
2603 St Johns St
Port Moody, BC V3H 2B5
Dear Prime Minister,
The challenge of being Canadian today is to uphold our values of openness, tolerance, and trust of others, while maintaining a very real understanding of the dangers of terrorism and the government’s need to protect us. But sometimes this balance is not struck correctly and we, as business people and entrepreneurs, are convinced that Bill C-51 is not balanced the way we as Canadians would want.
Many have spoken of the impact that Bill C-51 will have on Canadians in their everyday lives, so let us speak to the business impacts. We work with international clients, and we fear that this proposed legislation will undermine international trust in Canada’s technology sector, thereby stifling the kinds of business our respective technology companies can generate when that level of trust is high.
We believe that, despite the rising tide of the knowledge economy, this legislation threatens to undermine Canada’s reputation and change our business climate for the worse:
First, we must not allow censorship to become commonplace. Bill C-51 provides too much leeway for the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) to take unjustified actions against our businesses, including the takedown of websites. As it stands, C-51 criminalizes language in excessively broad terms that may place the authors of innocent tweets and the operators of online platforms such as Facebook, and Twitter, along with Canada’s Hootsuite and Slack, at risk of criminal sanction for activities carried out on their sites. The Bill further empowers CSIS to take unspecified and open-ended ‘measures’, which may include the overt takedown of multi-use websites or other communications networks with or without any judicial supervision.
We understand that harmful activity can occur online, however Canadian law already prohibits hate speech and promotion of criminal offences. This legislation proposes unnecessary and excessive speech prohibitions which, as Professors Forcese and Roach have pointed out, "contains no defences for legitimate expression of political or religious thought." Taking down websites without these safeguards can unduly impact our ability to do business and commerce.
Second, we believe that Bill C-51 will effectively grant the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), which is empowered to assist CSIS, an implicit offensive mandate to act within Canada. There is little sober second thought in the new open-ended world of covert action that C-51 creates for CSE. New CSE digital disruption activities can include measures such as the false attribution of disreputable content to individuals, and even planting of malware on individual computing devices.
We are already concerned about the negative impact the activities of CSE and CSIS, including reports of spying on our trading partners, have had on Canada’s reputation. The impact of these new rules could collapse the necessary distance between investigative and executional powers. This distance should be increased, not done away with.
Furthermore, Bill C-51 leads to expanded powers to detain or revoke travel for people on the Specified Persons list. We need to rethink the fundamental problems with the “false positives” on this list, and instead address this flawed process. Travel to and from Canada is a necessity for international trade.
Most importantly, we ask for data security. We know that many of our clients, including our government, will only host services in Canada because of the invasive privacy issues in the U.S. The U.S. tech industry has already lost billions in revenue because of this, and we don’t want it to happen here.
We also know that the U.S. National Security Agency has been targeting Canadian businesses, including Rogers and Royal Bank of Canada, with the full knowledge of the CSE and our government. We can’t even get a clear understanding of the details, due to the lack of independent oversight of our spy agencies.
The data disclosures on innocent Canadians and those traveling to Canada for business or recreation, could make our clients leave us for European shores, where privacy is valued. Duplicated data flowing between multiple unsecured federal government and foreign government databases leaves Canadians and Canadian businesses even more open to being victimized by data breaches, cyber criminals and identify theft.
Even without the increasingly permissive data disclosure practices enabled by C-51, federal government agencies have seen over 3000 breaches of the highly sensitive private information of an estimated 750,000 innocent Canadians in recent years. More than 200 Canadians have come forward in recent months to say their personal or professional lives have been ruined, due to information disclosures, despite never having broken the law. As it is we have a privacy deficit in Canada that erodes trust in both commerce and trade -- Bill C-51 deepens that deficit.
These are serious issues for us in business. Bill C-51 does not make us safer, and will impact our business. Can we afford to be left behind in the growing arena of the global technology marketplace? We are aware the government has admitted the bill is flawed and plans some minor amendments to C51. The amendments do not adequately address the underlying concerns set out above.
Why rush this legislation when there are so many reasons to rethink the approach? Why not establish effective Parliamentary oversight on par with our global counterparts? Why not establish a Royal Commission into the general state of digital privacy protection in Canada and get this right? Our values are too important to rush such an important decision.
We agree with the over 198,000 Canadians who have called on the government to scrap this reckless, dangerous and ineffective legislation through the petition at: http://StopC51.ca
We hope for a quick response that addresses these serious economic concerns.
Founder and CEO
President & Co-founder
Slack Technologies, Inc
Textuality Services, Inc.
Co-founder of OpenText
Former employee of Sun Microsystems and Google
Affinity Bridge Consulting Ltd.
President and CEO
Assante Capital Management
Bandidas Taqueria, Restaurant
CrossPacific Capital Partners
CEO and Founder
Digital Equity Holdings
GreenStep Solutions Inc.
Gen Why Media
Founder & CEO
Garibaldi Capital Advisors
Hello Cool World Media
Lions Gate Softworks
Magellan Angel Partners
Magellan Angel Partners
John F. Gray
M Hassaan Rahim
Managing and Relations Partner
North Accounting Services
OpenConcept Consulting Inc.
Founder & CEO
Director of Strategy
Tri City Capital Corporation
Co-Founder & CEO
Unmetered Internet Corporation
Version One Ventures
Founder - President
Zeros 2 Heroes Media