Leaving it up to the minister in charge to decide what is acceptable and what is not, or what is lawful and what is not, is far from a democratic and accountable model. We need review mechanisms with the necessary autonomy, independence and structure to create true accountability.
There's a lot at stake here -- if Canada continues on the path the current government has set it on, then harmful policies on surveillance, Internet censorship, and Big Telecom dominance could be locked in place for a generation, and hold back our digital economy. Canadians deserve better.
Huge numbers of Canadians, including key Ottawa decision-makers, are pushing back hard against the government's Bill C-51, which proposes unprecedented new powers for Canada's security agencies. The bill effectively turns CSIS into a secret police force and would place every Canadian under a government microscope.
Anyone can be a victim of surveillance. If you've used any of over a hundred popular file-hosting websites in the past three years, chances are you've had your online activity collected and analyzed by CSEC, acting without a warrant and with no independent oversight. There is a great deal that can be done to tackle our privacy deficit.
Even more disturbing, it seems that CSE deliberately targeted Canadian IP addresses in violation of the law and contrary to repeated government assurances. They then cross-referenced the IP addresses of file-hosting users with other databases to learn the identity of these users. So basically, ending up as a target for in-depth surveillance could be as easy as clicking on a link.
Do we want an Internet that works for everyday citizens -- or one dominated by powerful bureaucracies, be they spy agencies, giant telecom conglomerates, or powerful Hollywood lobbyists? If we want a free and open Internet that works for all of us then we're going to have to fight for it.
The potential destruction of terrorism is infinitesimally smaller than the damage done to our rights by a disproportionate attempt to prevent it. Please. Please remember this. It's even more important now, when that fact is so easily forgotten in the wake of the attack on our Parliament and the tragic deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. We cannot allow the extreme actions of a few to strip us of the freedoms those soldiers worked so hard to protect. But the Canadian government continues to roll back our rights in the name of "security."
It has never been clearer that Canada has a growing privacy deficit that needs to be addressed. Unless we work together, we could end up with a society that's more spied on and policed than ever before.