“And Gurney is even more misleading when he says this Bill drastically extends police powers in exceptional circumstances. This Bill does not change police powers in “exceptional circumstances”. – Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety.
“Minister Toews does not believe that police powers are extended under “exceptional circumstances.” I would encourage him, and all Canadians, to read Section 17 of the proposed Bill, which reads, in part, “Any police officer may, orally or in writing, request a telecommunications service provider to provide the officer with the information referred to in subsection 16(1) in the following circumstances,” which are then listed. The entirety of Section 17 is termed “Exceptional Circumstances.” – Matt Gurney.
Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out, Vic. -JG.
Vic Toews responds to Matt Gurney. And vice versa
Matt Gurney: Feb. 23rd, 2011
On Wednesday, Vic Toews, federal Minister of Public Safety, sent this letter to the editors of the National Post:
I read with interest Mr. Gurney’s blog posting calling on me to resign.
Let’s be clear: the arguments which Gurney relies upon are free of facts. I would ask him to actually read the CBC transcript. At no point was I “surprised” during that interview. The text of the bill accords in every respect with my expressed understanding.
And that should be no surprise. I’ve been involved in the broader discussion on how to ensure our laws are brought up to speed with rapidly evolving technology since I was the Attorney General in Manitoba over a decade ago.
Gurney is also wrong to say that there are no oversight mechanisms, judicial or otherwise. The Privacy Commissioner is given unprecedented access to all requests filed by law-enforcement for basic subscriber information. Given the failure of prior versions of this Bill tabled by the Liberals to incorporate privacy safeguards and accountability provisions, and the ad hoc nature in which this information is presently disclosed, this bill is a huge leap forward for the privacy of Canadians.
And Gurney is even more misleading when he says this Bill drastically extends police powers in exceptional circumstances. This Bill does not change police powers in “exceptional circumstances”.
But if Gurney had actually taken the time read the Bill, he would know that.
As Vancouver Deputy Police Chief Warren Lemcke said, “It is disappointing the amount of misinformation and rhetoric that is clouding an important discussion on this issue. It stems from appealing to the greatest fears of Canadians and suggesting that law enforcement may misuse this legislation. It has been propagated that law enforcement could freely monitor the ‘surfing habits of Canadians’ and do so without a warrant. Nothing could be farther from the truth.”
Responsible journalism demands critical, but fair reporting. It also demands, at bare minimum, a cursory understanding of the issues one discusses with Canadians.
Mr. Gurney would do well to acquire that basic grasp of the legislation if he wants to make a meaningful contribution to this important discussion.
Vic Toews, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Public Safety
I’d like to thank Minister Toews for his response. Having called for his resignation on Tuesday, posting his reply here is certainly fair. There are several points contained within his letter, however, that I would like to respond to.
1. I can assure the Minister that, despite his suggestions at several points above, I have indeed read Bill C-30 (which can be found here) and listened to his interview on CBC Radio’s The House (found here). He chooses to dispute my contention that he was “surprised.” I can’t speak to his emotional state at the moment that CBC Radio’s Evan Solomon read him a portion of the Bill that Minister Toews was apparently not familiar with (found at 7:20 mark of the audio feed), but I feel comfortable with my word choice, given that Minister Toews had to concede that he hadn’t heard an interpretation of the language of his own bill, and when pressed, agreed that he’d “like to see an explanation of that” (at the 7:59 mark of the audio). If Minister Toews doesn’t consider that to be “surprise” at the content of his own bill, which term would he prefer? Ignorant? Unaware? Uninformed?
2. Minister Toews relates that I said “there are no oversight mechanisms, judicial or otherwise.” This is not the case. It was my expressed opinion, in the third paragraph of my Tuesday post, that “robust legal safeguards are not preserved” in Bill C-30 as originally written. That is hardly a declaration that no safeguards exist at all. The issue is whether they are good enough. I, and many others, believe that that is not the case. If such safeguards are strengthened, my stance on the Bill may change. And I said so in my original piece: “The revised or rewritten version [of Bill C-30] may be worthy of passage into law … “
3. Minister Toews does not believe that police powers are extended under “exceptional circumstances.” I would encourage him, and all Canadians, to read Section 17 of the proposed Bill, which reads, in part, “Any police officer may, orally or in writing, request a telecommunications service provider to provide the officer with the information referred to in subsection 16(1) in the following circumstances,” which are then listed. The entirety of Section 17 is termed “Exceptional Circumstances.” Internet Service Providers often provide such information to police without a warrant. Bill C-30 would compel them to. If the Minister does not believe such constitutes a new police power under exceptional circumstances, what would constitute such a new power?
4. I thank the Minister for quoting Warren Lemcke, Deputy Chief of Police for the Vancouver Police Department. I must admit, however, to being somewhat surprised to hear Minister Toews so eager to tout Deputy Chief Lemcke’s support — Deputy Chief Lemcke is co-chair of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) Law Amendments Committee. CACP was a strong defender of the long-gun registry, which it repeatedly, and very publicly, cited as a valuable law enforcement tool. If you’ll recall, such informed counsel from knowledgeable law enforcement personnel had no impact on the recent decision of the federal Tories’ to scrap said registry. It would seem that Minister Toews values the input of police chiefs, so long as they agree with him.
5. None of Minister’s Toews’ comments address the main point I made when calling for him to step down — that it is his conduct as Minister that has disqualified him from continued service, not the specific content of Bill C-30 (which the Tories have already conceded is flawed by sending it to committee for amendments, which the government has signalled it is open to). While I welcome Minister Toews’ letter to the editor, nothing contained within sufficiently addresses the fundamental issues I originally raised on Tuesday. I therefore see no reason to reverse my earlier call for Mr. Toews to resign from his post as Minister of Public Safety.
See original here.
You can see the full text of Bill C-30 here. Section 17:1 can be found under “Obligations Concerning Subscriber Information”.
See “Vic Toews and ‘Lawful Access’: Deception, or incompetence?” (February 20th 2012) here.