OTTAWA, Ontario, October 12, 2005, (—Â Canada’s Liberal Government will introduce The Lawful Access bill into the House of Commons next month that will require telecommunications service providers to install “intercept capable” equipment. This equipment will allow the government to monitor emails, internet chat, telephone and cell phone conversations. The legislation is similar to that already adopted in the United States.

Concerns regarding breech of privacy were quick to surface. Prime Minister Paul Martin defended the proposed legislation saying ““In every instance 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.”

A spokesperson for Anne McLellan, the Deputy Prime Minister, explained the rationale behind the legislation claiming that “the idea is to essentially ensure that when companies build new technologies, they build in the capability for police to do what they’ve always done on the previous technologies … Have the physical, literal ability to intercept communications if they have a warrant.”

Federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart raised concerns about the proposed bill to Justice Minister Irwin Cotler as early as May. Stoddart wrote that “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. … 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.”

In the face of the government’s claim based on need, Stoddart insists, “we remain skeptical about the need for these potentially intrusive and far-reaching measures.”

The Conservative Party of Canada has issued a statement based on comments by Peter MacKay, M.P., Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party and critic for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. MacKay made it clear, “while we appreciate the challenges facing law enforcement officers and want to provide every available tool, Parliament also needs to ensure the privacy rights of Canadians are respected.” As a result, MacKay argues, “a rigorous examination must occur before we put these practices in place.”

MacKay was again quoted in the Tory statement. “Before the government moves ahead with this legislation,” said MacKay, “Parliament needs to ensure that any new surveillance powers are complemented with adequate judicial oversight. There needs to be a balance between privacy rights and security issues. The government wants more ability to cover up its own activities but expand their ability to intrude into the lives of Canadians. It is perverse logic and a double standard.”

As was reported yesterday there is a move by the EU to transfer control of the Internet from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce to an international body composed of various governments. Some, like China, already use sweeping measures to limit internet content. As a result there have been growing concerns about the increased attempts to restrict the freedom of the internet. Furthermore, the dangers inherent in granting governments any authority to monitor and censor the internet for a very real good, could at the same time lend government authority to exclude legitimate material expressing valid viewpoints from the public square.

Internet Censorship: Is It Possible? How soon? – In Depth Report

Control of Internet Being Taken Away From US For Questionable Reasons