<st1:City><st1lace><b style="">Ottawa[/b]</st1lace></st1:City><b style=""> seeks wiretap access to spy on criminals[/b]
New legislation that will enable authorities to conduct
surveillance on e-mails and telephone calls won't step on civil rights, Prime
Minister Paul Martin insists.
"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 told reporters during a visit to
The Lawful Access Bill, which will be introduced in the
House of Commons next month, requires telecommunications companies to install
high-tech equipment capable of intercepting exchanges.
The government insists their proposals will bring <st1:country-region><st1lace>Canada</st1lace></st1:country-region>'s
laws on wiretaps up to date and will mean police will be able to keep up with
organized criminals who are using high-tech to get around wiretaps.
"We're not giving the police any new powers, it's just
keeping up with the technology and keeping up with the criminals," Ontario
Liberal MP Roy Cullen told CTV News.
Winnipeg Police Chief Jack Ewatski said it was time to
"There are people in our society who are looking at <st1:country-region><st1lace>Canada</st1lace></st1:country-region>
as an intercept-free safe haven, and we don't want that to be the case,"
The new technology would give police and the Canadian
Security Intelligence Service, <st1:country-region><st1lace>Canada</st1lace></st1:country-region>'s
spy agency, the ability to intercept the e-mail, Internet chat, telephone and
cell phone conversations of thousands of people at a time.
The <st1:country-region><st1lace>United States</st1lace></st1:country-region>
has already adopted similar legislation.
In May, federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart
raised concerns about the proposed legislation with Justice Minister Irwin
"Law enforcement agencies will not only have a greater
ability to obtain communications data there is also much more data available
and, as discussed above, they now have far more sophisticated means of
analyzing this data," Stoddart wrote in her submission to Cotler.
"This combination could result in law enforcement
agencies being able to gain access to far more information about our personal
lives than they have in the past.
"We remain sceptical about the need for these
potentially intrusive and far-reaching measures."
Privacy advocate Darrell Evans echoed that concern. He says
the legislation is excessive and fears criminals will find ways around new
"It means you and I have lost our privacy, with no net
gains in security," he told CTV News.
Despite higher perceived security alert levels since the
9-11 terrorist attacks, applications for judicial wiretap orders in <st1:country-region><st1lace>Canada</st1lace></st1:country-region>
have declined over the last three years, from a high of 180 in 2002, to just
127 last year.
However, police agencies have lobbied extensively for
greater technological capabilities to eavesdrop on Canadians and the federal
government wants to give them the tools to do so, Alex Swann, a spokesman for
Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, told the Canadian Press.
"As a government we cannot seek a certain number of
wiretaps," she said.
"We can ask industry to ensure that there's adequate
capacity. But ultimately it's judges who will determine how many criminal code
wiretaps there will be."
Under the proposed regulations, telecommunications companies
would be required to build a new wiretapping capacity only when they decide to
"There is going to be a gradual implementation of the
legislation, Zuwena Robidas, a spokeswoman for Public Safety and Emergency
Preparedness Canada, told CP.