Conservatives omit online spying in crime bill

By Grace Scott September 20, 2011 03:30 pm

A controversial Internet surveillance bill has been omitted from the federal Conservative party’s proposed crime legislation.

Today, Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney General Rob Nicholson held a press conference to introduce the Conservatives’ promised omnibus crime act, titled The Safe Streets and Communities Act, which focuses on crime and terrorism. However, an expected component of the act regarding Internet surveillance known as “Lawful Access” legislation was nowhere to be found.

The set of Lawful Access bills would have warranted Canadian law enforcement and intelligence agencies the power to acquire the personal information and activity of web users from internet service providers (ISPs). ISPs would also be required by an additional provision to install surveillance equipment on their networks.

The legislation would essentially give law enforcement the ability to track people online without having to obtain a warrant. The federal NDP and Green parties, and civil liberties groups among others decried the bill as overly-invasive, dangerous and potentially costly for internet users.

Over 66,000 people signed an online petition called “Stop Online Spying”, spearheaded by Open Media, a national non-profit geared towards media issues.

The Internet surveillance bill could still go before Parliament, but now as a separate entity from the omnibus bill — which will be passed in the next 100 days. A spokesperson from the Department of Justice Canada responded by email to questions about future plans for the Lawful Access legislation, saying, “Our Government is committed to reintroducing these measures and further details will be announced in due course.” No response was given as to why the Lawful Access legislation had been omitted from the crime act.

The Safe Streets and Communities Act will increase penalties for sex offenders, those caught with possession or producing illicit drugs for the purposes of trafficking, and intends to implement tougher sentencing on violent and repeat youth crime. It also plans to eliminate the use of conditional sentences, or house arrest, for serious and violent crimes.

Grace Scott is completing her practicum at The Tyee

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