Thank you. It's always a pleasure to be here.
As you may know, the Criminal Lawyers' Association is a not-for-profit organization comprising more than 1,100 criminal defence counsel from across Canada. One of our objectives is to educate not only our membership but also the public on issues relating to criminal and constitutional law. The CLA has routinely been consulted and invited by various parliamentary committees to share its views on proposed legislation pertaining to these issues. The CLA supports legislation that is fair, modest, constitutional, and supported by the evidence.
To cut to the chase, the CLA is simply unable to support Bill C-13. Quite simply, Bill C-13 is not only overly broad but is also likely unconstitutional.
Bill C-13 purports to be concerned with tackling cyberbullying by stopping the spread of intimate images that are disseminated without the subject's consent. The real tragedy of Bill C-13 is that those provisions are necessary, laudable, and should be proceeded with; however, in reality that aspect takes up only a small percentage of the bill. Bill C-13, in the balance, sacrifices privacy in favour of expanded police powers and liberal disclosure standards.
Bill C-13, along with Bill S-4 and Bill C-31, represents a dangerous and in our opinion unconstitutional pattern of erosion of privacy.
Let me speak of the cyberbullying provisions. They are important, are laudable, should be proceeded with, and are indeed necessary in the modern world that we live in. Largely, I don't have any objection to the small percentage of the bill that deals with those provisions.
Having said that, I would add that there is a legitimate argument that those provisions in and of themselves may be overly broad, in that the standard imposed for the mens rea is “recklessness”. That standard of recklessness may go too far, in that it may make individuals potentially liable who don't know or could not have found out the circumstances to which the images that are the subject of that provision relate. To that extent, the problem with the cyberbullying provision is not necessarily its aim but rather its execution in that one small regard.
The bill's aim is to punish those who transmit intimate photos sent to them, when the person who took those images has an expectation of privacy. That is likely to have significant public support, as it should; however, the scope of the provision is potentially overly broad, because it expands the mens rea element. By making “recklessness” one of the potential mens rea standards for that offence, the provision may catch not only the individual who was the original recipient of the image but also those down the line—the second-hand recipients of that image—who may have no knowledge of the circumstances in which that picture was taken or made.
Some caution comes from Don Stuart, a pre-eminent expert in the field of criminal law. As he points out in Canadian Criminal Law, the fifth edition, there is a risk that the recklessness standard can devolve into a far broader conception of fault than is desirable, and a more nuanced approach would involve defining recklessness as knowledge both of the risk and that that risk was likely.
That provision can be seen in other aspects of the code; for example, in item (a)(ii) of section 229, which deals with murder.
A modified recklessness standard in the cyberbullying provision would target the so-called “revenge porn” conduct, without drawing to the net those who simply pass on the photos without context and may not necessarily be as morally culpable.
If the provision is allowed to remain there without a clearer definition of recklessness, the section may attract some charter scrutiny. At that point, the issue would become one of over-breadth: does that section capture individuals who may not be morally blameworthy, but may nonetheless be captured under the recklessness standard? As I said, this is a minor issue with that aspect of the bill.
More troubling is the “lawful disclosure” aspect of Bill C-13. The bill announces itself as being about cyberbullying and protecting Canadians from online crime, but certainly it far exceeds those parameters.
I will start by saying that of course the most controversial aspects of Bill C-30 have been removed—the mandatory warrantless disclosure of basic subscriber information. However, there are still some serious concerns. I'll deal with two issues.
The first is that there is simply insufficient judicial oversight in obtaining those orders.
Now, the Supreme Court of Canada has recently considered the standard for reasonable suspicion, which is the standard we're dealing with in the legislation, in the case R. v. Chehil. The court made it crystal clear that the standard of reasonable suspicion falls well below the normal requirement of reasonable and probable grounds. That's the normal standard we usually deal with. Specifically, the Supreme Court said that the state's interest in detecting and preventing crime begins to prevail over the individual's interest in being left alone at the point where credible-based probability replaces suspicion.
The data, which is the subject matter of the searches contemplated in Bill C-13, contains a great deal of personal information. It's a misnomer to simply call it metadata. That dilutes the importance and impact of that data.
I understand that a pre-eminent expert in this area, Dr. Michael Geist, will be testifying at this committee later this week, and I think he will agree that metadata is deserving of an increased level of protection. And indeed he's not alone in that view. When we look at reports in 2013 from the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, both reports reveal the heightened expectation and the intimate information that can be revealed through metadata. I would commend you to read those reports. It's quite shocking what can be discerned about an individual's communications and basic information about the individual through simply an IP address or some of the other metadata that's discussed.
Metadata as a starting point has a heightened expectation of privacy, and that is something that has been echoed by the Supreme Court, which agrees seemingly with Dr. Geist and with the privacy commissioners. In the recent case of Vu, which dealt with metadata found on a personal computer, the Supreme Court of Canada adopted the Criminal Lawyers' Association's submissions—we intervened in that case—finding that ordinarily this information, metadata, can help a user retrace his or her cybernetic steps. In the context of a criminal investigation, however, it can also enable investigators to access intimate details about a user's interests, habits, identities, drawing on a record that the user created unwittingly. Of course, in modern times there's a capacity to store, catalogue, and cross reference this information, revealing more and more.
The Supreme Court's comments about the heightened privacy inherent in this type of data is simply incompatible with the proposed reasonable suspicion standard that's found in Bill C-13. That incongruity exposes this proposed legislation to charter scrutiny, and in my opinion supports a conclusion that there's not only charter scrutiny here but indeed charter infirmity. There's simply no principled and justifiable reason that the new warrant provisions contained in Bill C-13 should not be based on the traditionally and judicially approved standard of reasonable and probably grounds.
Next, moving to the issue of the incentives for non-judicially supervised disclosure, Bill C-13 will also likely lead to an increased request for a telecommunications company to disclose information without court oversight and the corresponding protections. Privacy in this regard should be strengthened and not abandoned. Falling back on section 25 in the current Criminal Code is no answer to this problem. If you read section 25 carefully, you will see that section 25 requires reasonable grounds, and no comfort can be found in the appeal legislation as it offers no protection.
Of course as we see with that existing provision in Bill C-13, it broadens the scope of disclosure. No longer will the requesting organization be under an obligation to actually be enforcing or administering an act. The room for those requests is greatly increased. And indeed we see codification of the civil and criminal immunity which isn't in section 25, and as I said, section 25 requires reasonable grounds, which is completely absent in this section.
The real concern is that the expansion of police power and limiting liability for the party agreeing to disclose will result in increased police fishing expeditions, and of course we have seen from some reports some very alarming information about current practices in that regard.
Indeed, it would have been preferable to have discrete legislation on both the cyberbullying and on the lawful access legislation. However, given the current formulation of Bill C-13, the CLA recommends that the standards for obtaining those warrants be strengthened and brought in line with what the current Supreme Court case law would suggest is appropriate. No one wants to see evidence excluded. No one wants to get it wrong at the outset, and years later find out that the constitutionally suspect legislation was passed, evidence was excluded, and prosecutions were jeopardized because things weren't done right the first time. The provisions respecting the voluntary disclosure should be reconsidered to ensure both fairness, respect of privacy, and ultimately, constitutionality.