Canada’s Proposed Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act – Open Season For Police To Spy On Canadians Online

imageIn 2005, Canada’s current Prime Minister Steven Harper made the comment – “You won’t recognize Canada when I’m done with it.”   He was right – the values that have defined Canada are gradually being replaced by values more appropriate to those of a quasi-fascist state. To those of my generation, Canada is indeed, becoming unrecognizable.

Canadians, much like their American cousins, post 9/11; continue to be coerced by government’s trump card – the war on terrorism. As a result, Canadians blindly continue to accept the invasion of their personal lives and, infringements on their right to privacy.

In a statement reminiscent of George Bush’s – “you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists”, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, in an overreaching attempt to squash dissent on the recently introduced Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act – let loose with an outrageous slogan meant to vilify opponents – “stand with us or with the child pornographers”.

In other words, anyone who dares to oppose the Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act – which, will allow carte blanche government spying on Canadians’ Internet activities – without judicial oversight – is supportive of child pornography.

Those of us who disagree with the need for this legislation which would, in effect, place Canada in the same company as China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria – who subject their citizens to Internet surveillance – run the risk of being classified as criminals, perverts, and low life’s. As  Cicero, the Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, orator, and political theorist reportedly said – “When you have no basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff.”

This attack on reasonable and responsible discourse is hardly surprising, coming from a government intent on stripping away, layer by layer, the fundamental freedoms fought for, and won, by generations of Canadians.

To the historically challenged, and those that are less technology savvy, an intrusion into the sacrosanct ground of personal privacy – to protect children – may appear to be both reasonable, and prudent. After all, society’s protection of children must be part of the driving philosophy of any mature civilization.

But the curtailment of personal liberty – ostensibly for the common good – as this legislation supposedly is – has a rather unpleasant history. A history worth considering.

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“The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.”

Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf)

More appropriate perhaps –

“Necessity is the plea of every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves.”

William Pitt (British Prime Minister, 1783)

Equally as appropriate –

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.

The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated. But those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.”

C.S. Lewis

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Just one of the many corrosive  provisions included in this legislation, would require Internet service providers to hand over subscriber data to the Police –  without a warrant. The familiar argument often pushed forward by supporters of this type of regressive legislation – if you have nothing to hide….. – simply doesn’t hold water.

Resistance to this legislation is not about being law abiding, it’s not about protecting children from the .0000001 %.

It is about not having every aspect of one’s life subject to close examination.

It is about not allowing Big Brother to spy on one’s Internet activities.

It is about a disturbing tendency of this particular government’s interest in knowing – and controlling – the Internet activities of Canadian citizens.

Thankfully, privacy and consumer advocates – including Federal, Provincial, and Territorial privacy commissioners – have taken a hard line and, have been speaking out against this proposed thugary. Even so, given the unyielding positions previously taken by this current regressive government – the consensus of opinion seems to indicate; this nonsense will pass into law. Ensuring that Canadians, will get a taste of what was once East German life under the Stasi (The Ministry for State Security).

The sad part of this whole exercise in repression is – it’s pointless as a control against child pornographers. Since the minds behind this abomination appear to be barely computer literate, they seem to be unaware of the following –

VPN applications (Secure Virtual Private Network Connection), commonly used in repressive countries such as Iran, China, and so on – which allow untraceable encrypted data (preventing disclosure of private information), are readily available for download on the Internet. Once connected to a VPN, an ISP no longer has the ability to follow.

I suspect that child pornographers are generally computer literate and, are well aware of the practical methods that can be used to avoid detection. VPN applications are just one such method.

The unpleasant reality is simple – unfettered government surveillance directed at Canadian Internet users.

If you are a Canadian, and you believe that it’s time to fight back against unreasonable control of your rights to access the Internet without censorship, and surveillance, you might consider joining OpenMedia.ca, which describes itself as “a grassroots organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open and affordable Internet.”

Finally, let me say – I considered long and hard as to whether I should post my opinion on this issue. The number of comments on the Net (and, in more than one national newspaper), in which personal fear of this government’s response to criticism was mentioned, weighed on my mind.

I find it stunning, that I’m living in a time in which some Canadians are fearful of their own government. The unfortunate reality is – they may have ample justification for those feelings.

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20 Comments

Filed under Opinion, Point of View

20 responses to “Canada’s Proposed Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act – Open Season For Police To Spy On Canadians Online

  1. kenneth lunkins

    sure to criminals and terrorist aren’t smart enough to figure out everything. watch out for bed watch: they will tell you when you can have sex, or toilet police they are going to monitor your bathroom actives. so don’t flush tell they say so, and don’t do it to many times, or you will be put on a watch list.

  2. John

    Hi Bill,
    A lot of food for thought there, sadly the same is happening here also. If there is no blog tomorrow we know where you’ll be, but we will save you.

    People power always wins out in the end, or the threat of losing the next election, which ever comes first. :-)

    Cheers,
    John

    • Hey John,

      Yes, I recall that both you and Mal, have mentioned the same sort of regressive legislation is being considered in OZ. Including, the infamous Australian Firewall.

      You’re right – in the end we, the people, overcome power-mad politicians. Human history proves it – time after time, after time.

      Best,

      Bill

  3. Bob Slyker

    Hey Bill,

    Ben Franklin:
    They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

    An earlier variant by Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanack (1738):

    “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.”

    …Some paraphrased derivatives

    They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

    They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

    Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.

    He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security.

    He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.

    …and my favorite:
    People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.

    If we restrict liberty to attain security we will lose them both.

    Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

    He who gives up freedom for safety deserves neither.

    Those who would trade in their freedom for their protection deserve neither.

    Those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve liberty nor security.

    “The camels nose (I am afraid) is indeed well into the tent”

    Best,

    Bob

    • Hey Bob,

      Yes, – “The camels nose is indeed well into the tent”.

      From this excellent list you’ve provided, it’s plain to see that this issue has had the philosophers’ attention a time or two.

      Thank you for putting together such a great collection.

      Best,

      Bill

  4. delenn13

    You should know my stance on this… :)

    Gotta tell you what happened last week…speaking about “for the best of the children”. The hubby went to the board meeting at church and they were handing out forms for people who work with children and money in the church. The forms were for Police reports. The head office of our church(which is in the States) sent them. He was shocked and when they went to hand him his.. He refused. First thing out of their mouth was “What? You got something to hide?” He just said “No, but I am not doing this.” There is even talk that they may make all members do this. I guess the Bible left out the 11th Commandment. “Thou shalt be checked out by the Police and finger printed. But if you are a priest, don’t worry about it.”
    Anyway, guess I won’t be working in Vacation Bible school this year.

    So I am not surprised by anything any more. Pretty sick about it all..but not surprised.

    Got a question for you. I use Hide my Ass and Hotspot Shield for banking and shopping/Paypal/CC’s. Is that ok..or is there something better? Probably shouldn’t ask that..They will think I am some kind of pervert. Or like you said..they probably don’t even know what those things are.

    And on a happier note..for the good of children…..

    This is one of the reasons I support Indie Game developers(not mainstream). Martin Kool – Game Developer Gives 7-Year-Old Best Birthday Present Ever

    • Hey Delenn13,

      No surprise. We live in a society in which the lamestream media has done an excellent job of convincing us – there’s a child molester hidden behind every bush. Disregarding the statistics which clearly prove, such people are generally family members. All volunteer positions, to my knowledge, now require a criminal background check.

      Hide My Ass, and Hotspot Shield, are somewhat different animals.

      Hide My Ass is a pure proxy (in effect, a gateway), and as such, it does of course “hide” the users IP address downstream. However, data flowing from your machine is not encrypted and can be effectively intercepted and, in some circumstances, tracked. Proxies, in fact, can be used as data capturing devices. Something most users don’t consider.

      Hotspot Shield, on the other hand is a VPN – so, data is encrypted prior to transmission. Without the decryption key, as you know, the data can’t be read. On top of that, a VPN has a raft of additional and important security features built in.

      You may want to look here for a good overview of VPNs – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_private_network

      My suggestion – for banking or other personal financial transactions, use a Linux Live CD or, install Ubuntu to run alongside Windows (my personal preference). I NEVER visit my Bank using Windows. NEVER.

      You could, if you like, double up and run a VPN through Ubuntu. See here – OpenVPN

      Best,

      Bill

  5. Mal

    Hey Bill,
    The floodgates of bullshit have opened in Canada now, have they? I can’t believe a democratic government would introduce crap like this.
    I remember when the proposed Great Firewall of Australia was being discussed, the minister responsible said using a VPN would not be an offence. How Nice of him. But moreover, what would be the point if you can legally circumvent it.
    There’s trouble brewing, I can smell it.
    Cheers

    • Hey Mal,

      Yep, the bullshit is starting to rise. As for a democratic government – this government is as close to a fascist government, by definition, as any in the last 100 years – anywhere in the World. This government actually frightens people – as you’ll see in the attached comments.

      But, you’re right – “There’s trouble brewing.” Luckily, this is Canada, and people will revolt before they allow themselves to be figuratively handcuffed.

      The following are reader comments from today’s Toronto Star – not selected comments; typical comments out of the 100s recently posted to various articles at the Star condemning this affront to freedom.

      Best,

      Bill

      Harper Has Crossed the LINE – Where “fascist” is no longer just name calling. He’s THERE!

      Online, people are saying they’re ashamed to be Canadian – I’m not ashamed. I’m frightened.

      Not proud of my party today – Unashamedly, I am staunchly Conservative. Today, I am in unfamiliar territory and find myself in total agreement with Mallick. Furthermore, taking an unscientific water cooler poll of those who lean right, there’s a considerable level of opposition to this lunacy. I think the bill transcends party politics and if passed, would be a major step towards the complete destruction of any Right to Privacy. This is especially true given the extent to which a private citizen uses the internet for email, entertainment, shopping, political affiliation, and a host of other activities. I just don’t agree that these unprecedented powers are essential in the fight to combat child pornography. The search warrant is already in place and working well, witness the recent and successful sweep in Ontario. Law enforcement isn’t easy work, nor should it be made any easier at the cost of surrendering the fundamental right to privacy.

      Ashamed AND frightened – I am both ashamed and frightened to be Canadian. Fear, after all, is the conservatives stock in trade. Obscure threats, focus on small or non-existent dangers, abruptly cancelling funding for people who speak out against them … it goes on and on. When a government rules by generating fear you have a right to be afraid. But you also have a duty to be ashamed.

      I’m all for fighting child porn – but we know that the Tories won’t be able to resist peeking at people’s opinions, looking for marketable data to hand their corporate friends. In fact if you criticize the “Harper” government, the police or neo-con ideology…Hang on for a sec folks, I hear a knock at my door…

      Cops are human – So a male cop suspects his girlfriend/wife of cheating on him or a female cop suspects some other woman. Whats to stop them from spying for personal reasons. Most cop cars are equipped with computers and sure as hell because there human the temptation will get to some of them, especially in the wee hours of the morning while they’re whiling away the night. Now….suppose a cop has it in for someone..and they know a good hacker….need I go on?

  6. hipockets

    Hi, Bill –
    I’m sitting here shaking my head at the unmitigated dishonesty of some politicians. A dollar to a donut hole Harper made no mention of his plans before he was appointed to office.

    I’m not knowledgeable about Canadian politics, so I have to ask: How do you replace a prime minister? Do you have the option of public referendums?

    You said that you “. . . considered long and hard as to whether I should post my opinion . . . .”. I applaud you for doing so. Some slopes are too slippery to navigate and should be walled off as soon as possible. The only way to wall off issues like this is to speak out loudly and often about the repercussions of such terrible laws.

    By the way — one of the many things I like about your site is the exceptional quality of the comments from your readers. The best attracts the best! [ Present company excluded, of course! :>) ]

    • hipockets

      I forgot to add –
      You mentioned many Canadians are afraid of their government. I, too, am afraid, but of the radical and inept (not always the same people) politicians now in power, not of our government as a whole.

      In our case, thankfully there is twinkle of light at the end of the tunnel. Hope it does not turn out to be a train at the other end . . . .
      ——————————————————————————-
      We live in a weird, dangerous world. Can’t wait to see what happens on December 21st. :>)

    • Hey Hipockets,

      You’re right – no mention of these extraordinary plans during the election campaign. There’s no way to remove a PM/government, other than an election – 3 years down the road in this case. :(

      As the days go on, the negativity surrounding this issue has increased dramatically – so, there’s hope yet. Good to see so many stand up against this craziness.

      Best,

      Bill

  7. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    Enemies of democracy must be raofling. To cybercrooks trying to steal our identies and enemies subverting our security, we now need to add governments stealing our freedom. Do they not realise they are doing the terrorists’ work for them?

    OK, so I have a burglar alarm on my house and my car. I have a virus checker on my computer and, if i had young kids at home, I would install parental control as well. That is my decision and I can choose whether or not to live that way. I can’t choose whether I appear on CCTV 100 times a day. I can’t choose whether my car’s computer monitors my driving style. Neither of those things bothers me per se. What does bother me is who has access to that information and what they are doing with it.

    Last year we had some terrible riots in the UK. Buildings were burned and shops looted. People lost their lives and their livelihoods as a result. Social networks and smartphones were identified as having been used to organise the mayhem. What a great excuse to monitor those organs. But, guess what; we had riots long before we had modern technology. We also had other forms of surveillance, such as phone-tapping – allegedly illegal :).

    So, this problem is not new. What is new is the scale of it, both from the point of view of the individual and of those in supposed authority. There is a huge enquiry going on here into phone-hacking by the press. One newspaper (News of the World) has been closed down as a result. This begs the question “who else has been hacking phones?”.

    We expect our governments to safeguard our national interest, but they need to remember that they govern with our consent. I wish you luck in your campaign, it will probably soon be ours as well. By all means fight the excesses you are aware of. Be really worried about those you aren’t.

    Kind regards
    John

    • Hi John,

      Yes, your right – it’s not a new problem by any means. And, your mention of the current phone-hacking enquiry (big News here, as well), is certainly relevant.

      It’s beyond me, how politicians not only here, but elsewhere, continue to misread the public mood. I just can’t imagine how a rational mind could conceive of such an intrusion into democratic principles, and not stop to consider, the outrage such high-handedness would generate. Are these people not plugged into reality?

      It’s now a case, it seems to me, that the enemy is inside the gates. There’s nothing left to do but to keep fighting.

      Best,

      Bill

  8. Rwolf

    EXPECT MORE GOVERNMENT / POLICE CORRUPTION WITH NO-WARRANT SEARCHES
    Note: Canada will have the same loss of electronic privacy and civil liberties that the Obama Government proposed for Americans. See where Canada is headed. Canada signed with the U.S., asset forfeiture reciprocal sharing agreements that allow the U.S. and Canadian Police to share assets seized from Canadians. Canadian police want the power to search Canadian’s business and private electronic communications without a warrant—perhaps among other objective—to seize billions of dollars in property from Canadian Citizens. Isn’t it usually about money?

    Note U.S. Government wants the power without a warrant, to introduce as evidence in criminal prosecutions and government civil trials, any phone call record, email or Internet activity. That would open the door for Police to take out of context, any innocent—hastily written email, fax or phone call record to allege a crime or violation was committed to cause a person’s arrest, fines and or civil asset forfeiture of their property. There are more than 350 laws and violations that can subject property to government asset forfeiture. Government civil asset forfeiture requires only a civil preponderance of evidence for police to forfeit property, little more than hearsay.

    If the Justice Department has its way, any information the FBI derives from circumventing the Fourth Amendment, i.e. (no warrant searches) of Web Server Records; a Citizen’s Internet Activity, personal emails; fax / phone calls may be used by the FBI for (fishing expeditions; to issue subpoenas in hopes of finding evidence or to prosecute Citizens for any alleged crime or violation. Consider that neither Congress nor the courts—determined what Bush II NSA electronic surveillance, perhaps illegal could be used by police or introduced into court by government to prosecute Americans criminally or civilly. If U.S. Justice Department is permitted (No-Warrant) surveillance of all electronic communications, it is problematic state and local law enforcement agencies and private government contractors will want access to prior Bush II /NSA and other government illegally obtained electronic records not limited to Americans’ Internet activity; private emails, faxes and phone calls to secure evidence to arrest Americans, assess fines and or civilly forfeit their homes, businesses and other assets under Title 18USC and other laws. Of obvious concern, what happens to fair justice in America if police become dependent on “Asset Forfeiture” to help pay their salaries and budget operating costs?

    The “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000” (effectively eliminated) the “five year statue of limitations” for Government Civil Asset Forfeiture: the statute now runs five years (from the date) police allege they “learned” an asset became subject to forfeiture. It is foreseeable should (no warrant) government electronic surveillance be approved; police will relentlessly sift through Citizen and businesses’ (government retained Internet data), emails and phone communications to discover possible crimes or civil violations. A corrupt despot U.S. Government too easily can use no-warrant-(seized emails, Internet data and phone call information) to blackmail Americans, corporations and others in the same manner Hitler utilized his police state passed laws to extort support for the Nazi fascist government, including getting parliament to pass Hitler’s 1933 Discriminatory Decrees that suspended the Constitutional Freedoms of German Citizens. A Nazi Government threat of “Property Seizure” Asset Forfeiture of an individual or corporation’s assets was usually sufficient to ensure Nazi support.

    Under U.S. federal civil forfeiture laws, a person or business need not be charged with a crime for government to forfeit their property. Most U.S. Citizens, property and business owners that defend their assets against Government Civil Asset Forfeiture claim an “innocent owner defense.” This defense can become a “Catch 22” a criminal prosecution trap for both guilty and innocent property owners. Any fresh denial of guilt made to government when questioned about committing a crime “even when you did not do the crime” may (involuntarily waive) a defendant’s right to assert in their defense—the “Criminal Statute of Limitations” past for prosecution; any fresh denial of guilt even 30 years after a crime was committed may allow Government prosecutors to use old and new evidence, including information discovered during a Civil Asset Forfeiture Proceeding to launch a criminal prosecution. For that reason many innocent Americans, property and business owners are reluctant to defend their property and businesses against Government Civil Asset Forfeiture.

    Re: waiving Criminal Statute of Limitations: see USC18, Sec.1001, James Brogan V. United States. N0.96-1579. U.S. See paragraph (6) at:
    http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/96-1579.ZC1.html

  9. Mark

    Hi Bill,
    I;m sure the last nail in the coffin for liberty will be done under the name of security against terrorists. You’ve no doubt heard of the Patriot Act, few acts of congress have been less patriotic.
    Mark

    • Hi Mark,

      Couldn’t agree more. Hard to disagree with a “Patriot” Act. Any resistance is immediately seen as “unpatriotic”. Catch-22 magnified.

      Best,

      Bill

  10. delenn13

    Here’s some recent news about Bill C-30:

    Global News | ‘Gag order’ in Internet snooping bill prevents Canadians from knowing whether personal information is handed to authorities

    “Nobody with clean hands who might have had their information inappropriately disclosed will find out. So, nobody with clean hands will be able to bring (the violation)to court.”

    Global News | RCMP still deciding if threats against Toews will be investigated

    Love this part….

    “Part of the fight against the bill involved the publication of Toews’ divorce records, while other people are mocking the bill’s supposed powers by sending the minister mundane details of their lives.”