New legislation to expand the ability of authorities to monitor e-mails and telephone calls won’t trample on civil rights, assured Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. The Lawful Access Bill, along with accompanying regulations to be introduced in the House of Commons next month, would require telecommunications service providers to install high-tech equipment that is “intercept capable.”
The government wants to give police the tools to keep up with organized criminals and others deemed threats to Canada’s security, who are using high-tech to get around wiretaps. “In every instance when the government brings forth this kind of legislation, obviously the question of civil rights is first and foremost in our minds and they will be protected,” Martin said.
The new technology would give police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada’s spy agency, the ability to intercept e-mail, Internet chat, telephone and cell phone conversations of thousands of people at a time. Under the proposed regulations, telecommunications companies would be required to build a new wiretapping capacity only when they decide to upgrade equipment.
The idea is to essentially ensure that when companies build new technologies, they build in the capability for police to do what they’ve always done on the previous technologies. The United States has already adopted similar legislation and look how good it works for them.
Prime Minister Martin’s assurance comes in the wake of Federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart raising concerns about the proposed legislation with Justice Minister Irwin Cotler a few weeks ago.