Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Harper's extra-Parliamentary internet surveillance committee

This news is a new low in the Harper government's ongoing debasement of Parliament's role in Canadian democracy:
In the months leading up to the introduction Bill C-30, Canada’s telecom companies worked actively with government officials to identify key issues and to develop a secret industry-government collaborative forum on lawful access.
The working group includes virtually all the major telecom and cable companies, whose representatives have signed nondisclosure agreements and been granted secret-level security clearance. The group is led by Bell Canada on the industry side and Public Safety for the government.
The inaugural meeting, held just three weeks before Bill C-30 was introduced, included invitations to 11 companies (Bell Canada, Cogeco, Eagle, MTS Allstream, Quebecor, Research In Motion, Rogers, Sasktel, Telus, Vidéotron, and Wind Mobile) along with two industry associations (the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association and the Canadian Network Operators Consortium).
Essentially, the government was, and may still be, working with this group of telecom businesses to develop C-30, the intrusive lawful access/internet surveillance law that is supposedly in abeyance. This private working group has been privy to information, like draft regulations, that has not been provided to Parliament.

The companies also raised questions about getting compensation for surveillance and disclosing subscriber info. Could be big business and obviously, with this group, that would be a natural concern. Not so concerned about democratic and privacy rights which blew up publicly once C-30 was introduced.

You can imagine the government's spin that will be forthcoming. "It is natural to consult with stakeholders who will be affected by legislation," for example. Not in this secretive manner, though, to the exclusion of the public, other stakeholders and Parliament itself. We knew some privatization would be on the agenda during a Harper majority, but I don't think anyone thought that Parliament's core functions could be up for grabs too.