Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says the controversial Bill C-30, known as the online surveillance or warrantless wiretapping bill, won’t go ahead due to opposition from the public.
The bill, which was known as the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, was designed to help police combat child pornography. But civil liberties and privacy groups — even the federal privacy commissioner — said the bill violated the rights of Canadians.
Opponents lobbied strenuously against C-30, saying it was an overly broad, “Big Brother” piece of legislation that would strip all Canadians of the right to privacy.
The bill would have required internet service providers to maintain systems to allow police to intercept and track online communications without a warrant.
Canadians rallied against the bill after Public Safety Minister Vic Toews famously told an opposition MP that he could “either stand with us or with the child pornographers.” Those explosive comments outraged many Canadians and helped to galvanize the opposition to C-30.
“We will not be proceeding with Bill C-30 and any attempts that we will continue to have to modernize the Criminal Code will not contain the measures contained in C-30, including the warrantless mandatory disclosure of basic subscriber information or the requirement for telecommunications service providers to build intercept capability within their systems,” Nicholson said.
“We’ve listened to the concerns of Canadians who have been very clear on this and responding to that.”
OpenMedia, which waged a vigorous online campaign against C-30 through its stopspying.ca website, hailed the decision to kill the bill.
“It came as a quite a surprise,” said Lindsey Pinto of OpenMedia.ca.
“It looks like the government has finally heard the voices of Canadians who have been expressing themselves online in stating that C-30 is invasive, costly and poorly thought out,” she said.
Nicholson made the announcement after introducing a bill to update provisions that would allow for warrantless phone tapping in emergencies.
Canadian law allows police to wiretap without authorization from a court when there is the risk of imminent harm, such as a kidnapping or bomb threat, but the Supreme Court last year struck down the law and gave Parliament 12 months to rewrite another one.
The new bill, C-55, would give peace officers the right to secretly intercept private communications without a warrant in relatively rare, urgent situations. Someone whose communications had been intercepted in situations of imminent harm would have to be notified by police within 90 days.