Legislation Would Allow Canadian Government to Monitor Internet Users



July 21, 2009

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

OTTAWA, July 20, 2009 ( – The federal Conservative government introduced legislation in June to give the state greatly expanded power of surveillance of electronic communications and access to the personal information of Internet users. The Department of Justice’s communiqué on the proposed legislation says the intent of the bill is to thwart child pornography and identify criminal activity on the Internet.

“From distributing child pornography to enabling criminals to coordinate and plan a wide range of traditional crimes, the Internet has changed the way crimes are committed. Many of today’s crimes involve the use of mobile cell phones or computers to send messages through the Internet, making some crimes easier to commit and more difficult to detect,” the press release states.

The legislation, called the “Investigative Powers for the 21st Century (IP21C) Act,” would force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Canada to install surveillance systems on their networks which would give police the ability to tap into online communications and obtain information about a person’s Internet usage, including logs of websites visited and email addresses contacted.

The legislation also calls for ISPs to disclose personal information such as subscriber names, and their email and postal addresses, to government officials on demand, without the requirement of a search warrant.

Another part of the bill deals with giving police authority to remotely monitor and record the location of telecommunication devices such as cell phones.

The government communiqué describes this as allowing “police to remotely activate existing tracking devices that are found in certain types of technologies (such as cell phones and tracking devices in some cars) and would also continue to permit the police to install a separate device that would allow for tracking. A new provision would also be added to allow peace and public officers to obtain the tracking information through a production order.”

While admitting that the fight against child porn and the gathering of digital evidence on criminal activity are laudable initiatives, critics say they are concerned about the invasion of privacy and lack of judicial oversight the legislation proposes.

“This is now a formal way in which the government will determine who you’re in contact with, how often and for what purpose. If identified that someone or some area you’re in contact with as being a danger, you’re then connected to that,” said UBC professor and civil libertarian Richard Rosenberg in an interview with Vancouver’s News1130. 

IP21C resembles similar legislation that the Liberal government introduced in 2005 but which died on the order table due to the pending election.

Jesse Kline, an Associate Editor of the Western Standard ( news magazine, commented on the proposed legislation.

“It is bad enough that the government will expand its powers of surveillance. What’s worse is that it will circumvent the courts, the one institution with the power to place limits on the state’s ability to use its agents as tools of coercion, oppression, and censorship.”

“It is essential that people have the ability to publish their opinions and ideas anonymously to prevent government censorship and allow a free flow of information in the marketplace of ideas,” wrote Kline. “The proposed legislation would make it easier for the government to monitor online communication and obtain the identities of those who wish to express themselves on the Internet. With the amount of information people send over the Internet increasing all the time, this issue becomes even more important. Anyone who thinks they have nothing to lose by giving big brother the right to watch them at all times is sorely mistaken.”

With Parliament now in summer recess, the legislation will not be considered until the fall session, which gives Canadians who are concerned about further government intrusion into the lives of citizens, further restrictions on freedom of expression, and an erosion of the constitutional right “to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure,” an opportunity to contact PM Stephen Harper and their Member of Parliament to express their views.

Contact information to respectfully contact Prime Minister Stephen Harper with your opinion is available here. (

Contact Information for your Member of Parliament is available here. (

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