Bill C-27: Canadian Democracy In Action?
Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on October 19, 2009
Last Friday Michael Geist posted a chilling story about the The Copyright Lobby’s Secret Pressure On the Anti-Spam Bill which looked at how Bill C-27: The Electronic Commerce Protection Act, a piece of legislation touted as the “anti-spam” law, which was in danger of being dramatically altered at the last minute. If these tabled changes are made, instead of protecting Canadians from spam and spyware, the law would legalize a number of very frightening things. Not least of which would be Canadian governmental blessing to allowing corporations to assume law enforcement capabilities without the restraints of due process which our law enforcement agencies currently operate within.
Currently Canadian Law enforcement agencies have rules to follow. The RCMP can’t simply decide to break down someone’s door and sieze their possessions because they feel like it. Canadian Law has a history of protecting Canadian Citizens from Malicious Prosecution.
Yet the language of the proposed law quoted by Professor Geist was granting broad powers to telecom providers, namely:
“providing computer security, user account management, routing and transmission of messages, diagnostics, technical support, repair, network management, network maintenance, authorized updates of software or system firmware, authorized remote system management,and detection or prevention of the unauthorized, fraudulent or illegal use of a network, service, or computer software, including scanning for and removing computer programs”
Of course most of what is included there isn’t bad stuff, it’s really “detection or prevention of the unauthorized, fraudulent or illegal use of a network, service, or computer software,” that is incredibly broad. Why is a company that connects the wires to connect Canadian to the internet suddenly charged with detecting and preventing crime?
What is unnerving is the next bit, the fact that telecom providers are also given the authority for “scanning for and removing computer programs”. In laymans terms, this means that if Canadian’s connect to the internet Bell Canada et al have the power to decide if Canadians are doing something illega, and if they think we are– nothing anywhere about proof, mind– they will also have the right to remove software from our computers.
What an incredible amount of power to gift to corporate entities. Whatever the reasoning for allowing this, that is truly frightening.
This goes far beyond the cases where electricity carriers reported instances of sudden increased electricity consumption to law enforcement to facilitate apprehension of criminals. The news story that stuck in my mind was the one where the Emergency Response Team broke in the door and frightened the daylights out of the elderly folks living there. Turned out that the criminals had tapped into these people’s connection. Wasn’t the criminals who got roughed up, though.
The most frightening difference here is the idea that the law doesn’t just ask the telecom providers to keep their eyes open and report suspicious activity, the law tells them to detect it, and even worse, act on it. All on their own.
This would essentially give our telecom providers — Bell/Telus/Rogers/Shaw/Sasktel– total control of the internet and every computer connected to it. This would give them absolute authority to act as police, judge, jury and executioner. This would unquestionably slam an iron curtain around Canadian internet use. Maybe that particularly frightens me because some of my ancestors fled the Russian Revolution to settle in Canada so they could live in freedom.
So for myself and my family, I do not want to see that happen. Since so much of the world’s work is either on or moving toward the internet, allowing so much power over a nation’s freedom to commercial business is mind boggling. And no, it hasn’t happened yet, but they might pass the law, complete with last minute amendments as early as today.
So I dis what I could to spead the word in my own little corner of the internet universe by talking about this danger in my blogs. But instead of just complaining about it, I also did what members of a democracy are supposed to do– and in a healthy democracy enouraged to do — I articulated my concerns and sent them to the people who are actually working on passing this law.
More Chilling Still
One of the amazing and great things about the internet is the speed of it. When we send email, it arrives where its going almost instantly. Another really cool thing is “return receipts”. So what I’ve been getting is automatic responses.
These are the is the results so far:
My MP, who is not on the committee, at least reads his email. Or someone does.
Harold Albrecht, MP AlbreH@parl.gc.ca – Your message was read on October 19, 2009 8:49:01 AM (GMT-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada).
The Commitee working on passing Bill C-27: The Electronic Commerce Protection Act
Tony Clement – ClemeT@parl.gc.ca Your message was read on October 18, 2009 8:54:08 AM (GMT-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada).
Marc Garneau – Garneau.M@parl.gc.ca Your message was deleted without being read on October 19, 2009 11:26:13 AM (GMT-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada).
Robert Bouchard – BouchR@parl.gc.ca Votre message a été supprimé sans être lu le lundi 19 octobre 2009 09:19:48 (GMT-05:00) Est (É.-U. et Canada).
(Babelfish Translation: Your message was removed without being read on Monday October 19, 2009 09:19: 48 (GMT-05: 00) Is (E. – U. and Canada).
Robert Vincent – VinceR0@parl.gc.ca Votre message a été lu le lundi 19 octobre 2009 09:09:36 (GMT-05:00) Est (É.-U. et Canada).
(Babelfish Translation: Your message was read on Monday October 19, 2009 09:09: 36 (GMT-05: 00) Is (E. – U. and Canada).
What does this tell me?
Of the elected members of parliament who sit on the committee, two of the four automatic responses tell me that my message was deleted without being read.
Is this what passes for democracy in Canada now?
post script: Sadly we have a tie-breaker:
Mike Wallace – WallaM@parl.gc.ca Your message was deleted without being read on October 19, 2009 3:32:39 PM (GMT-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada).