Understanding Bill C-43: Division 6

When trying to understand behemoth omnibus bills, it can be difficult to make sense of the usually informative bill summaries offered by parliament. This is no slight to the formidable efforts that those at the Library of Parliament go to in order to summarize these bills; however, how does one create a concise summary of a 460-page like Bill C-43 (Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2) which contains a high level of industry-specific jargon? We examined this issue and came to the conclusion that giving a two-page explanation of different parts of the bill made the most sense. Thus, we have taken it upon ourselves to try to answer some of the more mystifying aspects of Bill C-43, beginning with Division 6 of Bill C-43 (which deals with the Radiocommunications Act amendments). If you have supplemental questions, please let us know in the comments! The bill is still in report stage, so there is still time to convey your thoughts on the bill to your MP.

The text of the official summary for Bill C-43 reads as follows:

Division 6 of Part 4 amends the Radiocommunication Act to:
(a) introduce an administrative monetary penalty regime;
(b) explicitly prohibit jammers, subject to exemptions provided by the Minister of Industry;
(c) provide for the enforcement of rules, standards and procedures established for competitive bidding systems for radio authorizations;
(d) modernize wording relating to the powers of inspectors and the requirements to obtain warrants.

If you are anything like us, you may be asking the following questions right now (questions which we have looked into and tried to answer in the most complete yet concise fashion possible below):

What are jammers? Who is currently using them and are they causing problems for radio communications?

Bill C-43 defines jammers as “any device or combination of devices that transmits, emits or radiates electromagnetic energy and that is designed to cause, causes or is capable of causing interference or obstruction to radiocommunication” (there are exemptions to this for those devices that have been issued a radio authorization). Section 4 of the Radiocommunication Act already contains an ‘Idem’ (recognition that the meaning is to be interpreted in a certain way) that stipulates “No person shall manufacture, import, distribute, lease, offer for sale or sell any radio apparatus, interference-causing equipment or radio-sensitive equipment for which a technical acceptance certificate is required under this Act, otherwise than in accordance with such a certificate.” (RadioCommunication Act, 4 (2). Thus, this is essentially updating the Act to formally recognize this meaning.

In terms of the extent of the problem with jammers, witnesses at parliamentary committees have raised concerns in the past few years with how jammers are used to subvert justice and public safety objectives. For example, in 2010 Chief Rick Hanson of the Calgary Police Service warned the Justice Committee that “There are many examples of police officers conducting traffic stops who have had their phones and, in some cases, their police radios made non-functional because of the application of these jamming devices.” Other witnesses have spoken about their potential use in counter-IED operations for National Defence and for blocking GPS, so jammers can be considered have a potentially wide variety of applications.

What are the main features of the administrative monetary penalty regime?

Under the current Act, the fine for violating section 4 is a maximum of $5,000 for an individual and $25,000 for a business. Bill C-43 changes this to a maximum of $25,000 for an individual, $50,000 for an individual who has contravened the Act before, $10,000,000 for “any other case” besides an individual, and $15,000,000 for any other case for a subsequent contravention.

Any other details I should be aware of in terms of changes that C-43 will make to this Act?

Actually, a pretty significant detail is the addition of Section 14 (which currently is a vacant section given that the original Section 14 was repealed in 1989). The addition provides an exception to the jammer-prohibiting subsection, as well as subsection 9 (1.1) prohibiting the use of a Canadian-based radio-based telephone communication without the consent of either the originator or the intended recipient of the communication. This exemption is provided in the new Section 14 under the authority of the Minister for purposes of a) national security, b) public safety, c) customs and immigration, d) national defence, e) international relations f) investigation or prosecution of offences in Canada g) the protection of property and h) any other purpose prescribed by regulation.

That’s all for now! Stay tuned for updates on other divisions of this massive bill.

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