Media Advisory: BCCLA at Supreme Court of Canada to argue for limits to police undercover investigative powers in online spaces

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WHAT:           BCCLA at Supreme Court of Canada to intervene in the joint appeals Ramelson, Haniffa, Dare, and Jaffer v Her Majesty the Queen to argue for principled constraints to undercover police investigations on the internet

WHEN:           May 17, 2022, at 9:30 am EST / 6:30 am PST

WHERE:         Supreme Court of Canada (Ottawa)

Ottawa, ON (unceded Algonquin Anishinaabeg Territory) – The Supreme Court of Canada will hear arguments in the joint appeals of Ramelson, Haniffa, Dare, and Jaffer v Her Majesty the Queen. These stem from an undercover police operation conducted on a popular classifieds website to target underage prostitution. The appeals represent an opportunity for the Supreme Court to provide guidance on the acceptable bounds of police conduct on the internet.

The BCCLA will submit that undercover police investigations conducted online engage important privacy and expressive freedom interests. Individuals going about their daily lives enjoy and expect a certain degree of anonymity and freedom on the internet free from state interference. Online spaces, including chatrooms, message boards, and social networking sites, provide a crucial medium for people to express themselves and find a sense of community. At the same time, the internet allows police to impact these interests on a broader scale previously unseen in the physical world.

In light of these considerations, the BCCLA will intervene to argue that a purposive and rigorous framework must govern undercover police conduct online. Such a framework would include meaningful safeguards that protect individuals’ constitutional rights. Courts must be especially attentive when police target spaces that are frequented by a particular racial, ethnic, or cultural community.

The BCCLA is represented by Gerald Chan and Spencer Bass of Stockwoods LLP.

The BCCLA’s factum is available here.