Pubdate: Fri, 20 Feb 2009
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Times Colonist
Author: Rob Shaw


Canada's police chiefs lined up to support B.C.'s fight against gang
violence yesterday and urged Ottawa to make much-needed legal changes.

Steven Chabot, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of
Police, said the province's promise of more officers and Crown
prosecutors will help fight a wave of gang and gun violence on the

But what's really needed are new federal laws to help police conduct
surveillance on digital devices, he said.

"There is almost universal understanding this is a crucial area of law
that needs updating," Chabot said at a meeting of B.C. police chiefs
in Victoria. "What is required now is for the government of Canada to

Canada's surveillance laws were created in the days of rotary phones.
While police can still request access to modern BlackBerrys and
handheld computers, the telecommunications industry has not developed
technology to intercept calls and messages.

Drug dealers and other criminals are increasingly using devices that
are almost impossible for police to monitor, said Jamie Graham,
Victoria police chief. "We're suggesting all new technology be
intercept-capable prior to being sold," he said.

B.C. Solicitor General John van Dongen said he'll travel to Ottawa
next week to lobby the federal government on the changes.

But B.C. should not expect any quick fixes, Canada's public safety
minister told the Times Colonist yesterday.

"We're not on the verge of introducing legislation at this point, but
we're certainly interested in finding ways to address the problem,"
Peter Van Loan said.

"We will be looking at moving on that front, but there are other
certainly more urgent priorities to address the gangs that we will be
moving on."

A law to address the problem, called the modernization of
investigative techniques act, has failed at least twice in Ottawa. The
Liberals introduced it again as a private members' bill Feb. 4. But
government isn't sure it will support it.

"We don't really need to change laws, in the sense of adding new
powers for the police," Van Loan said. "We just need to update them,
so that the laws that exist right now can actually be given effect."

Telecommunications companies oppose any law that forces them to pay
the cost of creating technology to allow police to monitor digital

"If we were forced into figuring out a way to do it, it would be
hugely expensive, and it would be out of step with what the rest of
the world is doing," Telus spokesman Shawn Hall said.

"We'd be happy to consult with our industry on any legislation and on
any technology that would make this workable for our customers, law
enforcement and the industry. But it's not a simple thing."

Nonetheless, law-enforcement agencies remain hopeful Ottawa will act
after more than 10 years of police lobbying, Graham said.

"But you get into that black hole in Ottawa and nothing happens," he
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