The Canadian Civil Liberties Association looks ahead to the issues that Canadians will face in 2012:
1. The Cybersurveillance Bill
The government has promised that it will re-introduce its lawful access legislation without any major changes. Previous versions of these bills gave law enforcement more powers to access, track and monitor online and wireless information. The government argues that Canadian law enforcement must have investigative tools that are equipped to deal with 21st century technologies. We can all agree that this is true. However, investigative tools without oversight and without warrants are not what we need. CCLA and a growing chorus of concerned Canadians ask that the government not abandon long-standing principles and protections for individual privacy.
There are good reasons to require the police to obtain warrants and seek judicial oversight before invading the privacy of individuals. The advent of the Internet, email, cell phones and smart phones has not changed Canadians’ basic right to freedom from unwarranted government surveillance.
The government is seeking to pass a highly controversial bill (Bill C-4) that would allow the Minister to order the detention and imprisonment of people seeking refugee status. Human smuggling is a serious issue that requires enforcement resources and co-operation with foreign governments to deal with smugglers – but it does not justify jailing people who seek refugee status for 12 months without a right to habeas corpus. The Bill violates our Constitution and international law protections.
The Temporary foreign Workers Program has been the subject of numerous reports highlighting the dangers of such programs. The Program prevents workers from changing employers, has very limited pathways to permanent residency and generally makes such workers particularly vulnerable to exploitation. It operates in a way that undermines constitutional protection in a fundamental way. The program was to be limited and temporary, but it continues to expand. The CCLA urges the government to revise fundamentally the structure of this program.
It has been recognized for some time that Canada is lagging behind on access to information. While successive governments have promised more openness, transparency and proactive disclosure initiatives, the system remains costly, slow and often ineffective. There are also concerns about equal access to information.
Will any of these promises be realized in 2012? What kind of commitments will be made to open data and open government? CCLA has proposed that the Information Commissioner be given greater powers to include making orders, and has made submissions to committees studying open government. Access to governmental information is fundamental in a democracy and we will continue to demand transparency and accountability from our governments.