The Canadian Association of Police Chiefs is calling on the federal government to pass its controversial internet surveillance bill so police can fight cybercrime more effectively.
Association president and Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu says he is concerned Bill C-30 will die on the order paper, meaning officers investigating criminal activity on cellphones and the internet will still have to get a warrant every time they want to intercept communications by cybercriminals.
"Law enforcement continues to be handcuffed by legislation introduced in 1975, the days of the rotary telephone," said Chu on Friday morning in Vancouver.
Bill C-30 was introduced by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews last winter and was immediately criticized by many groups concerned about the sweeping powers it would give the government to track the ordinary activities of citizens online without judicial oversight.
Bill C-30 stalled in the House
The legislation was tabled in the House but has not been debated since a massive public backlash when it was released.
But Chu insists it's not about spying — it's about getting timely information from telecommunications providers.
'Right now there are gangsters out there communicating about killing someone and we can't intercept that.' —Vancouver deputy police chief Warren Lemcke
"If we don't take a strong stance on this issue Canadians won't appreciate the limitations that constrain law enforcement in the cyberworld," said Chu on Friday in Vancouver.
Chu said that if Bill C-30 passes internet and cellphone providers will have to release the name, address, phone number, email and IP information of suspects to police.
That's essential in this era of gangsters and cyberbullies, he said.
Deputy police chief Warren Lemcke agrees.
"Like the chief said, I can tell you right now there are gangsters out there communicating about killing someone and we can't intercept that," said Lemcke.
Critics question unchecked powers
Section 34 of the bill essentially would give any government appointed agents, who may or may not be a police or intelligence officer, the right to access and copy any information and documentation collected by internet providers and telecommunications companies, without the need for a warrant, judicial oversight or even a criminal investigation.
It would also require those communications companies to install the surveillance technology and software necessary to enable them to monitor and gather phone and internet traffic for the government.
Critics say the information will be more vulnerable to hackers and consumers will end up paying for the cost of the equipment needed for companies to implement the legislation.
Chu said he agrees that Section 34 is problematic.
"While the CACP endorses Bill C-30, we would like to make it clear there is one part of the bill that has posed concerns to some and we share that concern," Chu said in a release.
"It is easy to understand why some might conclude from that wording that inspectors would have unfettered access to Canadians' personal records when doing these inspections. While we realize that's not the intention of this section, this must be clarified."