BCCLA opposes “lawful access” proposal

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The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is opposing the federal government’s proposals for “Lawful Access”. “Lawful Access” is the term used by the government to describe their proposal to make it easier for police to access Canadians’ private telephone, cell phone and internet communications. The BCCLA is calling the move an unjustified intrusion into Canadians’ privacy and further action to create greater state surveillance capacity.

According to BCCLA Policy Director, Micheal Vonn, “The Government is proposing to conscript the private sector as agents of the police by making telecommunications service providers responsible for providing interception capabilities to the police and CSIS. In addition, there are proposals to essentially water-down the standard of privacy protection in all kinds of ways including making subscriber information available to the police on demand.”

The federal government held its first consultations on lawful access in 2002 and is now moving quickly to introduce legislation. The proposals are ostensibly for “modernizing” the Criminal Code to keep pace with changing technology and to prepare for ratification of an international treaty on cyber-crime.

Vonn: “The proposed changes go far beyond “updating” in regard to new technologies. That rationale may be legitimate, but it is being exploited as an opportunity to introduce other unrelated changes in law that are unprecedented in their impact on privacy and the way the government conducts surveillance. There are fundamental rights at stake. The government cannot sidestep scrutiny of otherwise unjustifiable policy changes on the grounds that ‘the treaty made us do it’.”

The BCCLA believes that the freedom to discuss all matters without fear of monitoring by the state is at the heart of democracy. As stated by Vonn, “These latest surveillance proposals are part of a torrent of new measures that undercut the privacy rights of citizens. These measures are happening at the same time that the government is moving to ensure maximum secrecy for its own actions – couched under the rubric of “national security”. This is part and parcel of a larger trend in not only the abrogation of individual rights, but the undermining of the democratic forum.”