Coalition Calls on Harper to Cut Online Spying Mandate from Omnibus Crime Package

Joint letter questions why government is avoiding debate on 'chilling' legislation

August 9, 2011 – A group of academics and public interest organizations released a joint letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper today, voicing their grave concerns about legislation that would allow for warrantless online spying on Canadians ("Lawful Access" legislation). The letter calls on the government to, at minimum, give the proposed legislation an appropriate hearing instead of rushing it through Parliament.

The letter to the Prime Minister is just the latest in a series of protests about the legislation. The Stop Online Spying Coalition has prompted more than 46,000 Canadians to sign an online petition at http://www.StopSpying.ca lambasting the government's anti-privacy initiatives, and earlier this year every federal and provincial Privacy Commissioner signed a letter to the government criticizing the legislation and questioning the need for bringing in these repressive measures.

"This legislation has never been to committee and MPs haven't heard a single witness on what the government is proposing," says Vincent Gogolek, Executive Director of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. "Given the serious concerns expressed by the Privacy Commissioners, burying these proposals in a catchall [crime] OMNIBUS bill is reckless and irresponsible."

"With so many raising concerns over this ‘chilling’ online spying scheme, the government must realize just how problematic its Lawful Access mandate is,” says Tamir Israel, staff lawyer with the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic. “We hope that it reconsiders and acts to prevent what this serious erosion of our civil liberties."

"The government's own supporters are opposed to online spying without oversight," adds Gogolek. He points out that former Conservative Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day was opposed to online spying without warrants, and states, "Why did the government drop its principled position on this? That's another reason we need a full debate on these measures."

The letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper can be found HERE.

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OpenMedia.ca is a national, non-partisan, non-profit public engagement organization working to advance and support an open and innovative communications system in Canada. Our primary goal is to increase public awareness and informed participation in Canadian media, cultural, information, and telecommunications policy formation.

About the Stop Online Spying Coalition

The Stop Online Spying campaign is supported by a group of public interest organizations, businesses, and concerned academics that have come together to encourage the government to reconsider its pending "Lawful Access" legislation (formerly introduced as Bills C-50, C-51, and C-52). The group believes the proposed legislation enables warrantless surveillance that is invasive, excessive and costly.