A search warrant is a court order issued by a judge or magistrate that authorizes law enforcement to conduct a search of a person or location for evidence of a criminal offense and seize such items. All jurisdictions with a rule of law and a right to privacy put constraints on the powers of police investigators, and typically require search warrants, or an equivalent procedure, for searches within a criminal enquiry…Conversely, in authoritarian regimes, the police typically have the right to search property and people without having to provide justifications, or without having to secure an authorization from the judiciary. (Source)
I just got a real kick in reading that explanation of a search warrant. We all know what it is, but that last little line really made an impression on me. Why is that? Well, you see, in Canada, we have search warrants too. Yes, our police forces have to get them if they want to enter someone’s home looking for something in a criminal case. There are very strict constraints on doing so for the police. In dictatorships, however, no justification is needed at all. The police can just walk right in and take what they want.
But who needs police? Why, here in Canada, you don’t even have to be a police force to access information that would otherwise have to be secured through a search warrant. If you happen to be the Canadian Human Rights Commission, you don’t have to bother with this rather bothersome trifle or even be constrained by the scope of a criminal act.
Nope. All you need to do is ask the police to turn over evidence they’ve collected using their search warrant but without actually having to get one yourself.
Yes, indeed, we’re actually worse than authoritarian regimes because with them, you actually have to be a police force to walk into someone’s home to secure evidence. Then again, maybe that’s what the CHRC really is.
Check out Doug Christie’s examination of Dean Steacy at the March 25 Lemire hearing. Pay attention to the text in red.
17 MR. CHRISTIE: Right. Now, what
18 information did the Human Rights Commission obtain from
19 the London City Police Service?
20 MR. STEACY: I obtained the police
21 report from Detective Wilson and I obtained a CD from
22 Detective Wilson for Mr. Scott Richardson’s hard drive.
23 MR. CHRISTIE: And it wouldn’t have
24 been possible for you to get that hard drive by any
25 other means; would it?
1 MR. STEACY: I could have probably
2 asked for it, for a warrant if I felt that it was
3 necessary in the course of investigation.
4 MR. CHRISTIE: Have you ever obtained
5 a warrant in the course of your investigations?
6 MR. STEACY: Yes, I have.
7 MR. CHRISTIE: In what case?
8 MR. STEACY: I’ve obtained many
9 warrants on many different cases and they aren’t all
10 related to section 13.1.
11 MR. CHRISTIE: Well, I’m looking for
12 one 13.1 case where you obtained a warrant for computer
13 hard drives.
14 MR. STEACY: None, but I’ve obtained
15 warrants to get information concerning section 13.1
17 MR. CHRISTIE: In what case?
18 MR. STEACY: The AOL case and the
19 DeCivida (ph) case.
20 MR. CHRISTIE: The who…?
21 MR. STEACY: The DeCivida (ph).
22 MR. CHRISTIE: And did you obtain
23 information by means of a search warrant?
24 MR. STEACY: Yes, I did.
25 MR. CHRISTIE: Did you go into a
1 house and get a hard drive?
2 MR. STEACY: Didn’t have to do that,
3 I obtained the information one from Canada Post and the
4 other from AOL.
5 MR. CHRISTIE: So, actually you’ve
6 never obtained a person’s personal computer and had
7 access to a hard drive through a warrant?
8 MR. STEACY: I haven’t felt that it
9 was necessary.
10 MR. CHRISTIE: Well, the answer is
11 simply, no, you haven’t. Isn’t that the truth, whether
12 you felt it necessary?
13 MR. STEACY: I thought I answered. I
14 said that.
15 THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, you did. He
16 answered that he had not — you asked him at one point
17 specifically about computers and he said no.
18 MR. CHRISTIE: Now, if you had
19 obtained someone’s computer, does the Commission have
20 the facilities to access their hard drive and analyze
21 the contents?
22 MR. STEACY: I don’t know.
23 MR. CHRISTIE: Well, have you ever
24 inquired? It’s my understanding the Commission does
25 not have any computer experts on staff who can access
1 someone’s hard drive.
2 MR. STEACY: Okay.
3 MR. CHRISTIE: It’s my
4 understanding — do you agree?
5 MR. STEACY: I don’t know the answer
6 to that. I know we have an IT section and they’re
7 pretty good at doing what they do with the computers at
8 the Commission. I don’t know we have that type of
9 software or if we have that type of facility to do
11 MR. CHRISTIE: It’s my understanding
12 that actually what you have done is used the London
13 Police Service Forensic computer capabilities to get
14 access to an otherwise protected password computer.
15 Isn’t that really what happened in
16 the Kulbashian case?
17 MR. STEACY: No, I wouldn’t
18 characterize it like that. I was investigating the
19 Canadian Ethnic Cleansing Team, et al complaint and
20 during the course of investigation I interviewed
21 Detective Wilson and he provided me that information.
22 I didn’t specifically go out and ask
23 him to go get Mr. Scott Richardson’s hard drive and
24 give me a copy of it, he advised me that it was there
25 and I asked for a copy, to the best of my recollection,
1 and he said I could have a copy and he sent me a CD.
2 MR. CHRISTIE: And you didn’t have a
3 search warrant for that?
4 MR. STEACY: No, I didn’t.
5 MR. CHRISTIE: So, I take it that
6 your position is that the police department who obtain
7 a search warrant for criminal purposes can simply take
8 that information acquired under a search warrant for
9 that purpose and give it to you on request; correct?
10 MR. STEACY: Yes.
11 MR. CHRISTIE: Mm-hmm. Did you ask
12 Mr. Wilson if he informed the Justice of the Peace when
13 he got the warrant that he was going to distribute
14 copies of the hard drive to people who asked for it?
15 MR. STEACY: No, I didn’t.
16 MR. CHRISTIE: Have you ever been
17 allowed to receive a search warrant in which you said,
18 I’d like to get these things and I’m just going to
19 distribute them to whoever asks for them?
20 Have you ever thought of doing that?
21 MR. STEACY: The search warrants that
22 I’ve obtained for information have been very specific
23 to discrimination complaints and the information I
24 would have obtained, it wouldn’t have led themselves to
1 never given information such as a hard drive.
2 MR. CHRISTIE: Hmm. Did you check
3 with your superiors to see if it was proper to receive
4 it, since it’s otherwise private and we’re very
5 concerned about privacy; aren’t we?
6 MR. STEACY: My recollection of the
7 file was that there was a discussion about what we
8 should or shouldn’t do at that point in the
9 investigation because Mr. Scott Richardson and Mr.
10 Kulbashian had been criminally charged and whether or
11 not we should hold off from the investigation until
12 those criminal charges were dealt with.
13 It was — my recollection was that it
14 was decided that we could go ahead and continue with
15 the investigation and that the criminal charges would
16 proceed on their own course and we would continue
18 MR. CHRISTIE: Well, my question was
19 specifically in regard to the acquisition of the hard
20 drive, did you consult with anybody to see if it was
21 proper for you to receive it, not whether you would
22 conduct (indiscernible) or anything else.
23 MR. STEACY: No, I didn’t.
24 MR. CHRISTIE: You didn’t?
25 MR. STEACY: No, no.