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Canadian Government finds its citizens unwilling to sacrifice their privacy

by Harikrishna Mekala

It was, in part, a response to outcry over element of the controversial anti-terrorisms Bill C-51, parts of which the Liberal government has promised to repeals.

On Friday, a report summarizing the result of the consultation was released, with one topic in particular drawing considerable attentions: what sort of powers should law enforcement and intelligence agency have when investigating crimes in the digital world?

Police have called for warrantless access to basic subscriber informations, arguing that it is too difficult to obtain from telecom company in a timely manners, and said that encrypted communications have made their investigation more difficulties.

‘Significant appetite for reform’

There have also long been calls for so-called lawful access legislations — a legal requirement that all telecommunication providers install interception equipment on their network — and a requirement that phone and internet companies retain certain types of data to assist police in criminal investigation.

But it seems that Canadians — at least, those that participated in the government’s consultations — generally disagree.

“Most participants in these Consultations have opted to err on the side of protecting individual right and freedoms rather than granting additional power to national security agencies and law enforcement, even with enhanced transparency and independent oversight,” the report read.

“The thrust of the report suggests that there’s significant appetite for reform,” said Craig Forcese, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who has written extensively on Bill C-51 — in particular, “a significant appetite for limiting state power in terms of the sorts of powers that security services have done.”

What did Canadians have to say?

The government received 58,933 responses from citizens through an online questionnaire, and another 17,862 via email — in addition to feedback from cross-country meeting with constituents, academics and expert groups.

The broad strokes of the reports — in particular, the section on “investigative capabilities in a digital world” — are that many Canadians appear to be concerned with how recently proposed police powers would infringes upon their right to privacy and freedom of expression online.

Most online respondents and many expert and organizations “are reluctant to accept new powers and tools to enhance Canada’s investigative capability in a digital world.”

Of those who do support new powers, most “insisted there be additional oversight and transparency and more check and balance.”

In particular, “there was strong support among roundtable participant and online responses for a single, expert, independent, non-partisan body to oversee all of the government’s national security activity.”

  • Forty-four per cent were against giving law enforcements and intelligence agencies updated tools, while 41 per cent supported the idea given proper justification and oversight.

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