June 25, 1951 (21st Parliament, 4th Session)


John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

Mr. Chairman, this is the section that introduces into our law a form of wire tapping. This section, the minister stated

this afternoon, had been requested by the attorney general of one of the provinces, or by the department of the attorney general, and this is the type of thing to which I believe the house should take most strenuous objection.
Some weeks ago in the course of a general discussion in the house I stated I was unalterably opposed to the principle of wire tapping. This section introduces a type of wire tapping, while the tapping does not actually permit of information being secured-or, in fact, denies it.
This section is one of those things that border on the sort of thing one expects in a police state, and must be guarded against. I had occasion today to look up the discussion in the United States which took place some years ago during the days of war, in reference to the whole problem of wire tapping. President Roosevelt summed up the situation when he said that the great problem today is to balance the need for law enforcement with the need for the protection of citizens against the abuse of such powers.
I do not think it has been before our supreme court; but the Supreme Court of the United States has spoken about wire tapping in language that could be understood. Now, I think certain questions arise. One of them is this: Have betting houses and common gambling houses become so widespread that they are undermining this nation? Certainly there is no evidence of it; and I cannot believe that conditions such as were revealed by the Kefauver commission are in existence in this country. In the United States it was shown that the law authorities and the underworld were operating together in various cities in connection with gambling and gaming houses, and common betting houses, to the detriment of democracy.
Even if you answer that question in the affirmative, it does not settle the matter; because liberty is never more in danger than it is when those who are well meaning, but who have no appreciation of what liberty means, by insidious means introduce things which though innocent in themselves ultimately bring about those things that characterize the police state.
This section looks innocent. It merely allows police officers to sit in and watch telephone calls in order to ascertain the degree to which the telephone is being used. But if we begin to allow police officers to do this, we take the first step along the lines toward the most intolerable abuses that can possibly be imagined, namely interference with the
Criminal Code
privacy of individuals by the totally inexcusable method of wire tapping, and by kindred means.
It is all very well to say that under this section wire tapping in itself is not going to be allowed. If we permit this to pass, it will constitute a precedent, and it will not be a long step, once this precedent has been established, for the state to ask for the legalization of the right to snoop into the private business and affairs of any individual in this country.
I know of nothing that arouses my personal antagonism more than the step being asked for by parliament, as provided for in this section. It looks innocent; but it is a step that can only lead to the desire of law officers to go the whole way and deny freedom of communication and the right of privacy.

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