Since the introduction of Bill C-51 by the Harper government back in 2015, the OpenMedia team has been working non-stop to overturn the outrageous attacks on privacy contained in the infamous bill. We produced Canada’s Privacy Plan — a positive vision for the future of privacy in Canada crowdsourced from over 125,000 contributors. We rallied over 300,000 people to call for a full repeal of Bill C-51, we participated in two national days of action against Bill C-51 in partnership with organizations across the country, and funneled more than 15,000 citizen comments to the government’s National Security Consultation last year.

Then, Bill C-59 was introduced, including some positive changes to C-51, but omitting many of the key changes privacy advocates called for. Even worse, Bill C-59 is proposing to introduce dangerous new spy powers that Canadians were not even consulted on.

However, there’s still time to stop it. While Bill C-59 is currently racing through Parliament, the committee reviewing it (Standing Committee on National Security or SECU) was the opportunity we needed to testify and raise our community’s pressing concerns with this bill, hoping the committee listens to Canadians and makes it right this time.

OpenMedia helped drive over 6,000 submissions to SECU’s current consultation. Additionally, nearly 10,000 Canadians added their voices in the two weeks leading up to our witness testimony regarding the proposed new spy powers for CSE in C-59.

THIS IS HUGE! Thank you for speaking out. Your voices matter and yet again we’ve seen the power you bring to influence key decision makers, to help them do what’s in the public’s best interest.

You can watch Laura’s testimony at the end of this post and the full video, including the question and answer period here. The full text of Laura’s opening remarks is below.

Standing Committee on National Security
February 8, 2018
11:00 a.m.
Wellington Block
Laura Tribe, OpenMedia

Good morning. I am the Executive Director of OpenMedia, a community-based organization committed to keeping the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free.

I am here with Tim McSorley of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, who were unfortunately not invited by the Committee to testify in these proceedings, but whose contributions we believe to be critical for an informed discussion of Bill C-59.

OpenMedia’s work on privacy and digital security dates back to Bills C-13 and C-30, but more recently focused on the serious security violations introduced in the previous government’s Bill C-51.

The OpenMedia community’s lengthy efforts on these issues include:

●    Producing Canada’s Privacy Plan, a positive vision for the future of privacy in Canada crowdsourced from over 125,000 contributors;

●    Over 300,000 people speaking up against Bill C-51;

●    2 national days of action against Bill C-51, in partnership with organizations across the country.

●    Over 15,000 citizen comments in the government’s National Security Consultation; and

●    Over 6,000 submissions to this Committee’s written consultation;

Public Safety Canada’s report summarizing the national security consultation results showed that Canadians are overwhelmingly in favour of increased protections for personal privacy. More than 4 in 5 responses indicated that their expectation of privacy in the digital world is the same as, or higher, than in the physical world.

So when Bill C-59 was introduced, we were relieved — a sign change was coming. But the more that the Bill was analyzed, the more our worries returned. The changes are less substantive than we had hoped. And invasive new powers were even introduced.

Bill C-59 fails to adequately address the information disclosure provisions, and terrorist speech offenses brought in by Bill C-51. It also brings in new data collection, cybersecurity and information sharing powers which further threaten our privacy and security.

But today, this committee has the chance to make this right.

Over 6,000 Canadians submitted their concerns with C-59 via OpenMedia’s written submission to this consultation.

But in the past two weeks, we’ve had almost 10,000 more Canadians sign a new petition, concerning the expanded cyber operations powers in the CSE Act of C-59, which I shall read now:

To: The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security

As a concerned Canadian, I am urging you to address the dangerous new powers being proposed for CSE in Bill C-59.

Throughout the process of reforming Bill C-51, Canadians have been very clear on the need to scale back the drastic and invasive national security measures in the bill.

Public Safety Canada’s own “What We Learned” report, which formed the basis of Bill C-59, confirmed that the majority of stakeholders and experts called for existing measures to be scaled back or repealed completely, and that most participants in the consultations “opted to err on the side of protecting individual rights and freedoms rather than granting additional powers to national security agencies and law enforcement.”

The new active and defensive cyber operations powers proposed in Bill C-59 for CSE are directly opposed to the wishes of the majority of Canadians. We asked for privacy, but instead we’ve got an out of control spy agency with even more extreme powers than before.

Security and privacy experts throughout Canada have expressed in great detail the issues with the proposed bill, and the changes that need to be made to protect the privacy and security of Canadians. Experts have warned of the consequences of granting powers like these, powers that would be all the more dangerous given the lack of oversight included in the bill.

I would like to point you to the “Analysis of the Communications Security Establishment Act and Related Provisions in Bill C-59” report by The Citizen Lab and the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC). The recommendations laid out in this report should be adopted by the SECU committee.

In a world, and time, where digital technologies are being used by so many to threaten our digital safety, we need our government to be helping make the world better – not actively undermining our security.

Signed, 9,633 Canadians.

On behalf of these signatories, plus the over 300,000 concerned with Bill C-51, and the other concerned civil society groups who have been unable to join these proceedings themselves, we respectfully ask you make things right.

We are asking you, our elected representatives, to stand up for our privacy, and continue the work of repealing Bill C-51.

Digital security is critical to Canada’s infrastructure, economy, and future. Please do not compromise this in the name of fear, or following other countries’ bad practices to lead us in a race to the bottom. We need you to be stronger than that.

Thank you.

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Marie Aspiazu

Marie Aspiazu is a Digital Rights Campaigner for OpenMedia, a non-profit organization that works to keep the internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free.