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Archived - Myths and Facts Bill C-13, Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act

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Myth:

Bill C-13 will make it illegal to steal cable signals.

Fact:

It is already illegal to steal cable signals or to possess a device to obtain a telecommunication service without payment.  This behaviour is prohibited by sections 326 and 327 of the Criminal Code.  It is a type of theft.  The amendments proposed in Bill C-13 to these long-standing offences would update the "telecommunication" language to expand the conduct that it covers, making it consistent with other offences (for example, it would add "imports" or "makes available” to the prohibited conduct in section 327).  The Bill would also make section 327 a hybrid/dual procedure offence which would give prosecutors more discretion in their charging practices depending on the seriousness of the offence.  Further, the amendments propose to repeal the definition of telecommunication found in section 326. The criminal law would rely instead on the statutory definition of telecommunication in the Interpretation Act. This is not a substantive change.

Myth:

  Bill C-13 is trying to hide controversial elements from Bill C-30 in the initiative to address cyberbullying.

Fact:

Bill C-13 proposes updates to investigative tools that would enable police to respond more effectively to crimes using modern technology.  It doesn’t make sense to introduce a new offence of non-consensual distribution of intimate images without providing the police with the necessary tools to investigate these types of crimes.  Bill C-13 does not include the former Bill C-30’s controversial amendments relating to warrantless access to subscriber information and telecommunication infrastructure modification.  It simply aims to provide police with the necessary means to fight crime in today’s high-tech environment while maintaining the judicial checks and balances needed to protect Canadians’ privacy.  There would still be a requirement for appropriate judicial oversight.

Myth:

Bill C-13 is an omnibus crime bill that deals with more than cyberbullying.

Fact:

Bill C-13 is not an omnibus crime bill.  It combines a proposed new offence of non-consensual distribution of intimate images to address cyberbullying with judicially-authorized tools to help police and prosecutors investigate not only the proposed new offence, but other existing offences that are committed via the Internet or that involve electronic evidence.  Both of these elements were recommended in the July, 2013 Federal-Provincial-Territorial report on cyberbullying and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

The Bill does not contain the former Bill C-30’s controversial amendments relating to warrantless access to subscriber information and telecommunication infrastructure modification.  It simply aims to provide police with the necessary means to fight crime in today’s high-tech environment while maintaining the judicial checks and balances needed to protect Canadians’ privacy.

Myth:

Bill C-13 is adding new “surveillance” powers, which will inevitably result in an increase in the tracking of Canadians and/or the interception of their communications.

Fact: 

Bill C-13 would reclassify certain powers and fix gaps in investigative tools.

  • Bill C-13 seeks to update existing powers in the Criminal Code and related statutesto ensure that our laws respond to the challenges of combating crime in the 21st century, balanced with the appropriate accountability and safeguard mechanisms.

  • Production orders for transmission data and tracing of specified communications would be included in the Bill as new categories.  These orders would adopt the judicial authorization threshold that is consistent with the existing specific production order powers, production order for basic financial data such as an account number, given the lower expectation of privacy in relation to such data.

  • Further, the Bill proposes that a higher legal test must be met before a judge can issue a warrant to track persons as opposed to tracking things.

  • Under the proposed legislation there is no change to the current approach to legal thresholds and judicial authorities for investigative tools.

Myth: 

Bill C-13 criminalizes software

Fact:

  Bill C-13 sets out in law what the courts have already found: that for purposes of section 327 of the Criminal Code,dealing with thepossession of a device to obtain a telecommunication service without payment, the term“device” includes computer programs.

Myth:
The proposed section 487.0195 of the Criminal Code would allow the police to sidestep court authorization requirements by requesting from organizations (banks, telecommunications service providers, etc.) voluntary disclosure, or voluntary preservation, of documents or data.
Fact:

Proposed section 487.0195 would not provide the police with any new powers. The Bill proposes a small revision to current section 487.014, which would make it clearer, for greater certainty, that the police do not require production orders if a third party voluntarily assists in a police investigation by providing information.

As part of their general policing duties, police at common law may already obtain information from a third party voluntarily without a court order. In 2004, production orders were included in the Criminal Codee to allow police to obtain a court order compelling a third party to provide information in situations where the third party did not do so voluntarily. However, the initial version of section 487.0195 (currently section 487.014 of the Criminal Code) was also added at that time to make it clear that there was no need for the police to obtain production orders when persons were providing their assistance on a voluntary basis, as long as there was no prohibition against doing so.

Bill C-13 now explicitly refers to the protections from civil and criminal liability when a person chooses to provide voluntary assistance to the police – i.e. a person who discloses information could not be sued or prosecuted for voluntarily providing information that they are not prohibited from disclosing. This protection already existed under the jurisprudence. Including this language in the Bill is not a substantive change, but was done to make the provision more transparent and understandable on its face.

Bill C-13 would incorporate preservation demands and preservation orders (proposed section 487.0195 of Bill C-13) into the current section 487.014 of the Criminal Code, so as to clarify that a person may also voluntarily preserve data, so long as doing so is not otherwise prohibited.

Bill C-13 also proposes to remove a reference to the public officer "enforcing this or any other Act of Parliament" from the current "for greater certainty" clause to ensure the provision is not misinterpreted as precluding voluntary cooperation in the context of general policing duties that do not directly relate to the enforcement of a statute, such as contacting the next-of-kin of an accident victim, returning stolen property to its owner or contacting the home owner, in the case of a break-in.

Police are better able to keep society safe and to investigate criminal activity when persons, groups and organizations are willing to assist them. The purpose of the current Criminal Code section 487.014 and the proposed section 497.0195 of Bill C-13 is to ensure that police and the public can continue to work cooperatively.

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Department of Justice Canada
November 2013


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