Warrant-less wiretaps: What Toews says and what C-30 says

In the House of Commons Monday, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said this, in response to allegations that his about-to-tabled legislation, would allow police to obtain information about the online activities of Canadians without a warrant:

    Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that any outrageous claims that private communications will be intercepted without a warrant is a complete fabrication. Our proposed approach will not allow police officers to access private communications without a warrant. That being said, our message is clear. If people use technology to commit crimes such as distributing child pornography, the police will apprehend them and they will be punished to the full extent of the law.

I’m having a little difficult squaring that statement with Section 16 of C-30 as tabled in the House this morning:

16. (1) On written request by a person designated
under subsection (3) that includes prescribed identifying information, every telecommunications service provider must provide the person with identifying information in the service provider’s possession or control respecting the name, address, telephone number and electronic mail address of any subscriber to any of the service provider’s telecommunications services and the Internet protocol address and local service provider identifier that are associated with the subscriber’s service and equipment.

Who are these persons “designated under subsection (3)” that simply need to show up with a request in writing rather than a order in the form of a warrant from a judge?  Mostly police officers and CSIS security agents but also the Commissioner of Competition. In other words: bureaucrats can have at your online info too:

(3) The Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Commissioner of Competition and the chief or head of a police service constituted under the laws of a province may designate for the purposes of this section any employee of his or her agency, or a class of such employees, whose duties are related to protecting national security or to law enforcement.

7 thoughts on “Warrant-less wiretaps: What Toews says and what C-30 says”

  1. I think the distinction Toews is making is between the content of the “private communications” and the identification information that is required to be disclosed by Bill C-30. In general, law enforcement does not need to intercept the communication itself – they already have it, which is why they are looking to obtain the identification information. That said, it’s a pretty fine line to be drawing.

  2. According to the Scribd version of Bill C-30, there are 109 pages in the bill. I have not read the bill & may do so. But I do have a question.

    Sometime ago I read an article dealing with the number of emails sent to the PM about a particular topic. In that article, it was made clear that the reporter, like many others are able to do, had put in an ATI request and had been able to get access to those emails sent to the PM.

    So my question is: what about MY privacy? Why should a reporter be able to access what I write to the PM or any other politician simply by filing an ATI request?

    If the police wants access to some individual’s emails it is — I assume — based on the suspicion that some crime has been committed and the purpose is to gather proof.

    In the case of citizens writing to politicians it is unlikely a crime has been committed, so why should those emails be accessible to members of the media, yet suspected criminals’ emails should apparently be protected, according to the torqued up rhetoric of the opposition?

  3. The exact word of what he’s said is true: the bill doesn’t provide individuals in subsection (3) with intercepted communications. It does, however, provide them with *everything else*, which is what the bill’s opponents have been opposing (thanks for the straw man, Toews). It’s essentially a de-anonymizing bill. Any person, at any time, can be deanonymized if so requested by the RCMP, CSIS, the Commissioner of Competition, or a municipal or provincial police force. Not cool.

  4. @Gabby : Actually, the actual e-mail addresses are normally blacked out when we get an ATI (from the PMO or any other govt dept). The only time a non-governmental e-mail address is left in a record released under ATI is if the department contacts the correspondent ahead of time and gets his or her permission to release their name and e-mail.

  5. Despite all the heroic talk about saving abused kids, let’s face it, this bill about enforcing copyright law. That’s where the money’s at, and there’s a lot of money behind it.

  6. “Actually, the actual e-mail addresses are normally blacked out …”
    What about the name of the sender?

    IMO, my argument remains valid. The argument being used against C-30 is that it infringes on people’s privacy. But which people are we talking about? The general law-abiding public or the suspected criminal? Sorry if I don’t share that scrupulous concern for suspected criminals’ right to privacy.

    Minister Toews has been denounced for his over-the-top rhetoric in saying that opponents of the bill either “stand” with the government or with the child pornographers. But isn’t the opposition equally at fault, using fear-mongering in suggesting that Canadians cannot trust law enforcement officers, claiming they’re out to “spy” on the general public for no particular reason?

  7. Vic Toews has been very careful to specify that ‘police’ will not have access to your private information without a warrant as per Sections 16 and 17 of the Bill.

    However, the bill defines two separate things 1) “telecommunications data” meaning your IP address and subscriber information and 2) a “communication” which is the actual content of information that you send or receive, which by definition includes emails, text messages, pictures, login information, passwords, web pages, banking information that you view — anything that is ‘communicated’ by your browser, email client or other program.

    With those definitions in mind. Please read Sections 33 and 34 of Bill C-30 where you will find that ‘Inspectors’ working for the Minister will have unrestricted access to any and all systems and information contained on those systems at any time — which includes “communications” since that is also a form of information.

    Since Mr. Toews has only been questioned specifically on the question of ‘police’ who are still subject (sort of) to the requirement of getting a search warrant, he has not been taken to task on the question of ‘inspectors’ who are not required to get search warrants, and yet, in the course of their duties…will most likely be the ones conducting fishing expeditions on your personal and business information.

    There are countless other provisions in this Bill that give extraordinary powers not only to law-enforcement but also to government employees. There are provisions that could subject Canadians to foreign laws, others that circumvent review of information when sharing with foreign states or entities, and others that give the Minister of Public Safety a veritable blank cheque to build this new surveillance system and create a new class of ‘Investigators’ to work hand in hand with law enforcement.

    For a layperson’s guide to the possible implications of Bill C-30, please visit the following link:

    Please find Bill C-30 in its entirety here:

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