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Court decision likely won't change cyberbullying bill, MP says

Brent Rathgeber says controversial cyberbullying bill should be split over privacy invasion concerns

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jun 21, 2014 06:00 am

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A recent Supreme Court of Canada decision that could have ramifications for Bill C-13 likely won’t provoke any changes, St. Albert’s MP says.

Last week, the Supreme Court handed down a decision in R v. Spencer.

“The Supreme Court said quite unequivocally that even basic subscriber information, IP address and who the subscriber to the IP address, his name and his mailing address, is private information and therefore cannot be disclosed to law enforcement agencies without lawful authority, ie, search warrants,” said Brent Rathgeber, MP for Edmonton-St. Albert.

That decision has put the constitutionality of Bill C-13, the cyberbullying bill, in doubt.

Bill C-13 contains provisions that Rathgeber has raised flags about before. It would offer protection from liability to telecommunication companies that hand over subscriber information to law enforcement without a warrant.

Rathgeber thinks the bill should be split. The cyberbullying-related sections of the act are supportable, he said, but privacy concerns over the other parts are holding up passage of the bill.

“As most commentators have commented over the weekend, including myself in an e-newsletter … and Daniel Therrien, the newly minted privacy commissioner, this really calls into question the government’s maintaining for weeks and months that C-13 was constitutional. But they don’t seem particularly anxious to slow it down or break it up. They seem to be adamant they’re going to proceed as is,” Rathgeber said.

He believes the government “feels no shame anymore when its laws are being struck down as unconstitutional, in fact quite the opposite. I believe, sadly, part of its appeal to its base, especially when it comes to fundraising, is continuing this unprecedented and I would suggest ill-advised fight with the Supreme Court of Canada.”

Several recent Supreme Court decisions have gone against the government’s legislation.

“I think somewhere in the anterooms of Langevin Block the brain trust has determined that since they’re unlikely to craft laws that can comply with the Supreme Court’s verdicts with respect to minimum mandatory sentences, or harm reduction when it comes to prostitution, or safe injection sites or a whole series of decisions that have not gone the government’s way, why even try?” Rathegeber said.

He thinks they are now crafting laws that will be popular amongst the Conservative Party’s base “and then, if and when they’re struck down, they’ll just blame it on the unelected, unaccountable courts.

“To me that’s an irresponsible strategy,” Rathgeber said.

However, despite commentators’ suggestions that the bill be split, Rathgeber said he hasn’t seen any indication the bill might not go through as is.

That could change if MPs hear enough pushback while on the summer barbecue circuit, though. Rathgeber noted the Tories eventually did alter their Fair Elections Act after much outcry.


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