PHOTO: Flickr/Jamie McCaffrey
By Rignam Wangkhang
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson recently called for the urgent need to have warrantless access to Internet subscriber information in order to keep Canadians safe. This type of intelligence gathering would violate the 2014 unanimous Supreme Court ruling in R. v Spencer, which ensures that authorities must receive a warrant before Internet Service Providers provide subscriber data.
Commissioner Paulson argued that effectively fighting cybercrime and child pornography in a timely manner requires warrantless access to Canadians’ digital information. While the RCMP stated they only want names and addresses, once an individual’s Internet address is linked to them, their whole digital life could be at risk of surveillance. This risk lead to the Supreme Court ruling on the importance of warrants in protecting our privacy.
The existing legal safeguards allow for certain protections of Canadian rights. Currently, authorities can easily obtain a warrant if a reasonable cause to suspect an individual is responsible for criminal actions is demonstrated. Increasing public safety should not jeopardize the privacy and current privacy protections that Canadian citizens are entitled to; there are many other methods to fight cybercrime and child pornography without sacrificing and infringing on our rights.
Commissioner Paulson referenced the burden of warrants on the speed at which the police can operate. To combat this, a system that prioritizes urgent requests could be implemented rather than providing the RCMP free reign to access personal data.
"Warrantless wiretapping is a completely unjustifiable intrusion on privacy rights," says Tom Henheffer, CJFE's Executive Director. "There is no excuse for removing judicial oversight from our law enforcement practices. A judge's discretion exists for a reason, and skipping over it for convenience's sake will unquestionably lead to abuse."
The rights and privacy of Canadians cannot be violated simply because of fear and convenience. Strong accountability mechanisms and proper oversight are necessary to keep our police and security forces accountable, and to preserve our legally protected rights.
Rignam Wangkhang is CJFE's Campaigns and Advocacy Officer.