New federal electronic surveillance legislation would likely invite a constitutional challenge if passed in Ottawa, a B.C. Civil Liberties Association spokesperson suggests.
Introduced in the House of Commons on February 14, the legislation would enable law enforcement officials to obtain some information about Internet users without a warrant.
Telecommunications service providers would be required to share customer information like names, telephone numbers, email addresses, and IP addresses. The companies would also have to put in place systems to intercept communications to aid investigations.
The federal government maintains the legislation is intended to help law enforcement keep pace with technological advances as they fight online crime. However, privacy advocates have raised concern authorities would have too much power to snoop into the personal lives of Canadians.
“Huge pieces of this [legislation] are ripe for constitutional challenge….,” B.C. Civil Liberties Association policy director Micheal Vonn told the Straight by phone.
Vonn cited the section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protects everyone from unreasonable search or seizure. However, the Vancouver lawyer insisted mounting a legal challenge would not be an ideal strategy to address problems with the legislation.
“We need to straighten this out up front and we don’t think that Canadians should be, as much as they are now, subject to many years of unconstitutional laws while we await challengers to work their way through the court system,” Vonn said. “Simply put, it behooves the government to address the constitutional issues up front.”
According to the Globe and Mail, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has defended the legislation, saying “there is nothing in the bill that would allow police to snoop on an individual's private conversations or even to follow a person's activities on the Web. All that has to be done through a judicially authorized warrant.”
An online petition posted by the Internet advocacy group OpenMedia.ca has garnered more than 90,000 signatures from opponents of the bill.