Ten years ago, I would have seen the latest decision regarding cell phone searches as a disaster: an invasion of privacy that violates our Charter rights and gives police too broad powers.
But times have changed.
The sad …and scary … truth is there are people in our midst right now who want to kill us …any of us, almost all of us … if they could in some twisted jihadist attempt to destroy Canada’s democracy, our diversity, our social policies, even our freedoms.
There are criminals, high-tech organized gangs who now use … not guns … but cell phones, I-pads and computers in such sophisticated large-scale attacks against our bank accounts, credit cards, personal data and even family information and connections to rip off not only our assets and belongings but even our identities.
Ask anyone who has had their personal data hacked and their identity high jacked what turmoil it has caused them …sometimes taking years to recover from … and you will understand the reality our society is up against.
These really are more terrible and potentially frightening times than any of us have ever PERSONALLY faced before.
We are at war …. in quite a different fashion from actual physical wars of the past: the enemy today is right here, in person, or right here from thousands of miles away, via the Internet.
In the face of all this, the decision, by the Supreme Court, is really quite limited: police will be able to search, without warrant, the content of people’s cell phones …but ONLY IF they have been arrested on a particular charge. And the ONLY INFORMATION they can gather MUST be related to those charges.
In other words, the police will NOT be able to just stop anyone in the street and, on suspicion or just a hunch, demand a look or search of anyone’s cell phone.
And when ANY cell phone search is done, in relation to any arrest, the police must keep detailed records of what was examined and why. ANY failure to properly do so would work AGAINST the police, ruling out the use of any information thus gathered.
In other words…and quite clearly … the Supreme Court has given police a new weapon to use against CRIMINALS … and only AFTER THEY ARE ARRESTED … not just to harass teens, members of the public, protestors or … God forbid … troublesome bloggers!
The closeness of the Court vote … 4 to 3 … certainly points to the dangers or fears about abuses of our Charter rights.
I think that’s good. The decision does NOT give the cops carte blanche … and the dissenting opinion warns against opening the door to George Orwell’s Big Brother controls … if no warrant is required.
But warrants take time, can be challenged and delayed … and, frankly, in today’s high-speed technological criminal world, would yield more than enough time through other phones or computers to clear info, destroy evidence … and even for accomplices or big bosses (or fellow jihadi terrorists) to escape.
The danger, as always, is that SOME police officers or even agencies will abuse the right …and will try to examine cells BEFORE a person is arrested, or even after an arrest, look for info totally unrelated to the charge involved. I do worry about that, but I am convinced if there are abuses of the new Court ruling, that can be dealt with … in future Court rulings.
However in the face of the ugly evils that now pervade our society and the world, and use cellphones to wreak havoc on the REAL WORLD in which we live today, it’s the criminals and jihadists we must handcuff … not the police …unless they betray the new trust.