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Vancouver police signal support for online surveillance bill

Tom Stamatakis of the Canadian Police Association at a press conference in Vancouver in September 2010.

Simon Hayter for The Globe and Mail/simon hayter The Globe and Mail

A law enforcement campaign in support of Bill C-30, a controversial act that has triggered debate across the county, has been launched in Vancouver.

At a press conference, Monday, Warren Lemcke, Deputy Chief of the Vancouver Police Department and a member of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, and Tom Stamatakis, President of the Canadian Police Association, spoke in support of the telecommunications surveillance bill.

And Deputy Chief Lemcke promised "more police officials across the country will be providing comment in the coming days."

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The legislation has come under attack for the powers it proposes to grant police to fight online crime.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has said Bill C-30 "contains serious privacy concerns," because it gives police the authority to get access, without a warrant, to subscriber information behind an IP address.

But Mr. Lemcke said the bill is needed because police are currently saddled with laws that were drafted before the Internet gained wide popularity, and long before police thought they might need to find out, for example, where an e-mail had originated.

"Current legislation regarding lawful access was drafted in 1975, in the days of the rotary phone," Mr. Lemcke said.

He said for police the problem is that many telecommunication service providers (TSPs) in Canada "do not have the technological ability" to provide information, even when they have been served with a warrant.

"What that means is that police could go to one of these providers with a warrant to intercept calls in a kidnapping investigation and they (the TSPs) do not have the capability … to do that," Mr. Lemcke said.

He said Bill C-30 is needed because it would require TSPs "to have the necessary infrastructure to allow police to get the data or intercepts they need when they are lawfully allowed to do so."

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Mr. Lemcke said the information that companies would be required to release would be a person's name, address, phone number, e-mail address, internet protocol address and the name of the service provider.

"While this information is important to police in all types of investigations, it can be critical in cases where … someone's safety is at risk," he said.

He said the bill "does not allow the police to monitor e-mails, phone calls or internet surfing at will without a warrant."

And he said his organization "is disappointed in the amount of misinformation and rhetoric that is clouding an important discussion on this issue."

The introduction of Bill C-30 has sparked wide debate, with Public Safety Minister Vic Toews stirring things up last week when he said critics "can either stand with us or with the child pornographers."

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