Hearings on the proposed federal anti-malware legislation will likely start next month, according to the chairman of the parliamentary committee overseeing the bill, and it could be enacted into law by the end of the year.
“I sense that there’s broad support for this legislation amongst all parties in the House,” Michael Chong, the chair of the Industry, Science and Technology committee, said in an interview Friday. “I think it’s because when you look at third parties surveys of spam origination around the world, Canada’s in the top 10 and this is not something we should be proud about.
"We’re also hearing from domestic companies that they’re having trouble maintaining their networks because of all the spam coming down the pipe. A high percentage of it – 75 to 90 per cent, we’re being told - of all e-mail traffic in Canada is spam. So we’re hearing from all quarters that this is long overdue.”
Chong’s optimism that the bill can be dealt with relatively quickly was echoed by the Liberal’s Industry critic, who said some wording only needs to be “tightened up,” and by the head of an association representing independent Internet providers, who said his group has no concerns.
Bills are sent to a committee for review and possible amendments, after which Parliament has the final say. The Industry committee will decide June 2 on its agenda for the rest of the month, and Chong believes the anti-malware law will be on the schedule.
While Chong hasn’t heard major complaints yet from the opposition or the private sector, he doesn’t believe the bill can receive royal assent by the time Parliament takes its annual summer break. The House is expected to adjourn during the third week of June. However, he’s hopeful the bill will be law before the end of the year.
Introduced four weeks ago, Bill C-27, officially called the Electronic Commerce Protection Act, forbids anyone in Canada from sending unsolicited e-mail or installing a program on a computer without permission. The maximum penalty for an organization is $10 million, and for an individual, $1 million.
What it won’t do is stop malware – which includes viruses, worms, Trojan Horses, e-mail pitches for phony investments and denial of service attacks – that originate in other countries. However, Chong said that a year after Australia passed similar legislation in 2004 it was no longer one of the world’s top 10 originating countries for spam.
C-27 closely follows legislation proposed in 2005 by a government-appointed Spam Task Force, which may be the reason why little opposition to the law has surfaced so far despite its hefty penalties and the authority it gives the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to get a warrant and enter buildings. The Privacy Commissioner and Industry Canada also have some authority.