Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart raised concerns about the Conservative government's lawful access initiative in a letter to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews on Wednesday. In the letter, Stoddart noted her provincial and territorial colleagues have called on the federal government to take a “cautious approach” when looking at an expanded surveillance regime “that would have serious repercussions for privacy rights.” She said that former bills C-50, C-51 and C-52 from the last Parliament went beyond maintaining investigative capacity or modernizing search powers because they subjected more individuals to surveillance and scrutiny. “Rather, they added significant new capabilities for investigators to track, and search and seize digital information about individuals,” Stoddart wrote. Stoddart added that when new surveillance powers are proposed, it is the responsibility of the government to demonstrate they are necessary. She told Toews that evidence has yet to be provided proving the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) or the Canadian police are not able to perform their duties under the current laws. Stoddart added that she is concerned about the adoption of “lower thresholds” that would allow authorities to obtain personal information such as real names, home addresses and unlisted numbers, to name a few, from commercial enterprises without the justification of a crime. She argued that if Parliament allows authorities to circumvent the courts to obtain personal information, stronger oversight and reporting safeguards must be strengthened. Caution is critical to the lawful access legislation because privacy protection allows Canadians to exercise their demographic freedoms openly, without fear, mistrust or censorship, Stoddart said. The government is expected to reintroduce the bills this session.