Good morning. My name is Laura Tribe, and I am the executive director of OpenMedia, a community-based organization committed to keeping the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free.
I'm here today 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 OpenMedia believes 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 has focused more recently on the serious security violations introduced by 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 that was crowdsourced from over 125,000 contributors; over 300,000 people speaking up against Bill C-51; two national days of action against Bill C-51, organized in partnership with organizations across the country; over 15,000 citizen comments submitted to the government's national security consultation; and over 6,000 submissions to this committee's written consultation on Bill C-59.
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 four in five responses indicated that their expectation of privacy in the digital world is the same as or higher than in the physical world.
As a result, when Bill C-59 was introduced, we were relieved; it was a sign that change was coming. However, the more we analyzed the bill, 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 offences brought in by Bill C-51, but also brings in new data collection, cybersecurity, and information-sharing powers that further threaten our privacy and security.
Today this committee has a chance to make this right. Over 6,000 Canadians submitted their concerns about Bill C-59 via OpenMedia's written submission to this consultation. Since then, in the past two weeks, we've had almost 10,000 more Canadians sign a new petition concerning the expanded cyber-operations powers proposed in the CSE act included within Bill C-59. It's addressed to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security and reads:
“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 a 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 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 will be all the more dangerous given the lack of adequate 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, produced 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.”
As of this morning, our petition has been signed by 9,633 Canadians. On behalf of these signatories, plus the over 300,000 against Conservative Bill C-51, and the other concerned civil society groups who have been unable to join these proceedings themselves, we respectfully ask that 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 to be stronger than that.