Canadians Won't Surrender Charter Rights for Surveillance Measures

Ottawa – Canadians told the government loud and clear that they will not surrender their constitutional rights for extraordinary surveillance measures, says Algoma- Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP, Carol Hughes.

Speaking to a bill drafted in response to a Supreme Court order, Hughes reminded the Conservatives that it is incumbent on the government to propose legislation that is thorough in order to avoid wasting money and time.

The Supreme Court threw out the wire-tap provisions in the criminal code last year when they ruled section 184.4 was unconstitutional.  The ruling gave parliament twelve months to remedy the situation.  C-55 is the second response to that decision.  It follows the abandoned surveillance bill, C-30 which was the government’s initial and far-reaching response.

“It is a shame however, that instead of considering these issues and trying to fix legislation that was already in place - we get bills like C-30 - that seek to further limit our rights and freedoms protected the charter,” said Hughes.  “Instead of ensuring what we already have is working, the Conservatives attempted to pile on legislation that would further limit our rights and freedoms.”

Hughes noted that the public outcry to C-30 was not a response to the idea of police surveillance of suspicious individuals, but was a reaction to legislation that went well beyond what was needed.  She noted that most Canadians are happy to provide the police with appropriate tools – but not at the expense of their charter rights.

For Hughes, it is a matter of striking a reasonable balance between an individual’s right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure and society’s interest in preventing serious harm.  

“I can tell you that my office constantly receives inquiries dealing with the protection of privacy,” said Hughes.   “Canadian people are fiercely protective of section eight of the Canadian Charter of Canadian Rights and Freedoms which states that everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.   Much the same, I have never been asked by a constituent to unreasonably limit the privacy of Canadians.”

The much less ambitious C-55 is expected to pass the House of Commons in the time-frame outlined by the Supreme Court.  The court allowed the current provision in the criminal code to be used for the period that parliament was given to comply with their ruling.