Under the pressure of a 70,000 signature petition, the government has omitted “Lawful Access” (Online Spying) bills from the larger omnibus crime legislation announced today. The legislation—which would introduce warrantless spying of Internet activity in Canada—is still before Parliament. But today’s events mark a major milestone for the Stop Online Spying coalition and the 8 in 10 Canadians who oppose the Conservative government’s new online surveillance legislation, Vancouver-based Open Media says.
The government’s move stems from the success of a petition and public education campaign—Stop Online Spying—which brought citizens together to join in the outcry from civil liberties groups, businesses, academics, and every Canadian privacy commissioner. The campaign’s citizen-made PSA videos have been viewed over 86,000 times in just a few days.
“After months spent decrying the bills as invasive, costly, and poorly thought out the government’s move to remove warrantless electronic surveillance from the omnibus is a clear step forward,” says Steve Anderson, executive director of OpenMedia.ca, the coordinating organization behind the Stop Online Spying coalition. “This online spying plan is poorly thought-out and would could cost Canadian Internet users and businesses millions. We’re pleased to hear that the online spying bills will receive proper scrutiny in the House of Commons,” continues Anderson. “This is the first step in the government fixing this legislation—now we need to put in privacy safeguards and ensure our data is safe and that the financial burden on Canadians is as minimal as possible.”
“This is a victory for Canadians,” says Vincent Gogolek of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. “The government has been forced to listen to the 8 in 10 Canadians who are against online spying, and to the many experts – including every provincial privacy commissioner – who have pointed to the many serious problems with this radical approach. We look forward to the government finally making its case for why it wants these extraordinary powers and why we should all pay for them.”
“Decoupling the government’s controversial cyber-surveillance enhancements from the omnibus bill is a step in the right direction,” said Graeme Norton of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “These powers are very complex and have not received anything close to the level of Parliamentary scrutiny that they deserve. Hopefully the government will now heed the warnings of Canada’s Privacy Commissioners and many concerned citizens, and either abandon these proposals or bring them more in line with the privacy expectations of most Canadians.”
OpenMedia.ca is a non-partisan, non-profit public engagement organization working to advance and support an open and innovative communications system in Canada. The Stop Online Spying campaign is supported by a group of public interest organizations, civil liberties groups, businesses, and concerned academics that have come together to encourage the government to reconsider “Lawful Access” legislation.