Canadian Lawful Access Consultation

by Maria on August 9, 2003

The Canadian justice ministry has published the results of last year’s consultation on communications interception. Reading it is like entering an alternate universe where sanity and moderation prevailed. There’s no sign of the draft legislation yet, but the signs are good that it may actually contain the ‘balance’ between law enforcement, human rights and industry interests we’re always hearing about but I have yet to see. And for a justice ministry, the Department of Justice of Canada runs an exemplary consultation.

I’ve blogged before on the corrosive effects of justice ministries scrambling to make the most of September 11th to extend their powers at the expense of citizens’ rights. So it’s refreshing to see a justice ministry that, going on the external signs only, is bucking this trend. A few stand-out features of the Canadian consultation are:

– It has a clear statement that the consultation and resulting legislation are meant to serve the three most affected interests; law enforcement, privacy / human rights, and the communications industry.

– Law enforcement agencies seem to have been encouraged to publicly make their case on the same basis as other stakeholders. Sure, they probably still get privileged access to decision makers behind closed doors, but having to argue for and explain to the rest of us the reasoning behind increased law enforcement powers can only be a good thing. And it makes for informative and thought-provoking reading too.

– The ministry states explicitly that this legislative work is not a direct outcome of September 11th, but follows from Canada’s obligation to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime and also G8 responsibilities for mutual cooperation. This is an important signifier of intent and it sets a tone of reasonableness which I haven’t seen in debates elsewhere.

– The Canadians re-state unequivocally that data retention is not on the table, and that data storage, a much more human rights compliant policy, is going to be introduced. (For explanation of these two policies in this context, see the ministry’s helpful FAQ.)

The proof of the pudding is in the eating of course, and there’s no indication of when the draft legislation will be published. But comparing both the content and conduct of this consultation to others I’ve seen on this issue, I find the Canadian approach encouraging. They give all impression of actually wanting to hear what people think.

One little aside; of the 200-odd submissions the Canadian government received from individuals, only 2% were from women.

{ 1 comment }


Daragh McDowell 08.09.03 at 7:23 pm

At the risk of sounding arrogant, what more would you expect from us humble canucks. While our Yankee neighbours may scoff at us for not spending all our money on thermonuclear devices intended to massacre millions, and thus revealing ourselves as ‘soft’ Canada is quite probably the most socially progressive nation on earth today (Maybe the Netherlands trumps us.) Look at the facts of the matter:
-One of the finest healthcare systems on earth, available to anyone as long as they’re sick.
-The first country in the Americas to embrace gay marriage, and as it happens, without too much crowing or hand-wringing, just a simple verdict, and a simple law. Hopefully ignorant hick Ralph Klein (premiere of my redneck province unforunately) will shut his trap and simply accept it rather than shout bellicosely as he’s been doing.
-Attempts to decriminalise pot, despite American objections.

And now this. Liberal papers and mags are starting to report a new trend of people moving to Canada simply out of disgust for the increasingly reactionary and fascistic policies of the Bush Administration and particularly, Ashcroft’s little Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue. Anywho, thanks for dragging up an interesting read for us all Maria, and big up to the Great White North.

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