After a brief recess the House of Commons will again be in
session this week and one of the Government Bills up for debate for the first
time is Bill C-55: "The Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R.
vs. Tse Act”. This is in my view an important Bill although it has to date not
generated a considerable amount of public commentary as opposed to Bill C-30.
While Bill C-30 is now effectively a dead bill, it was frequently
mischaracterized as the “Internet spy bill” even though Bill C-30 did not allow
for any unauthorized “spying” to occur without judicial oversight. Bill C-55 on
the other hand, does pertain to the legislation that allows law enforcement
agencies to engage in lawful but limited surveillance activities without
judicial oversight. I believe that any legislation that allows law enforcement
to engage in acts of surveillance without a court order is important to
Canadians and as such, I will spend much of this week’s report covering Bill
One key aspect of Bill C-55 is to recognize that it does not
create new powers for law enforcement, but rather seeks to clarify existing
legal tools available to police in matters of public safety as a result of a
Supreme Court of Canada legal ruling. Law enforcement at times requires the
ability to respond very quickly in situations where there are urgent
circumstances. Kidnappings, hostage taking and bomb threats are a few examples
where urgent actions are expected of the police to protect innocent victims and
maintain public safety. The kidnapping of 23 year old Vancouver resident Graham
McMynn in April of 2006 and the prompt response by the Vancouver Police
Department in using all of the legal resources available to safely return Mr.
McMynn to his family serves as a reminder of why legislation in a Bill such as
C-55 is needed.
Currently the laws that govern police use of a wiretap (as it is
frequently referred to as) without court authorization can only occur in
situations where there can be imminent harm as defined in section 184.4 of the
criminal code. From a historical perspective this particular legislation was
passed into law some two decades ago by a former Government in 1993. One of the
oversights of the existing legislation is that there is no legal requirement for
an individual who has been the subject of a wiretap to be notified of this fact
after the incident has occurred. The Supreme Court has ruled that if law
enforcement intercepts private personal communications under section 184.4,
there is an obligation to notify the individual that this action has occurred.
The Supreme Court has further directed Government to respond to this matter by
April 13 of 2013. I mention this last point as often I am asked what factors are
involved in establishing the timing on when various Bills are introduced into
the House of Commons.
Bill C-55 proposes to add new requirements to comply with the
ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada. One new requirement proposes mandatory
notification for any person who has had personal communication intercepted under
this act within 90 days unless a court ordered extension for the notification
period is granted by a judge. A second proposal is to publish annual reports on
the use of “imminent harm” wiretaps so the public can be better informed on
these practices. The final proposal better clarifies and narrows the scope that
allows police officers the ability to use this legislation. The current
definition is broader in also including peace officers. Overall I believe the
proposals in Bill C-55 will provide better balance and help to increase the
transparency of a process that all Canadians should always be aware of. Also
occurring this week is continued debate on Bill C48 “Technical tax Amendments”
and Bill C42 “Enhancing RCMP Accountability Act”. Senate Bill S-7 “Combating
Terrorism Act and S-12 “Incorporation by Reference in Regulation Act” are up for
3rd and 2nd reading debate respectively. Private Members Bill C-463 “Discover
Your Canada Act, C-419 “Language Skills Act” and C-425 “An Act to Amend the
Citizenship Act” are some of the Private members business that will come before
the House this week.
If you have any comments, questions or concerns on these or
any Bill before the House of Commons please do not hesitate to contact me by
phone at 1 800-665-8711 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.