By Ryan McGreal
Published February 16, 2012
Vic Toews ought to be ashamed of himself. The Conservative Minister of Public Safety dragged the national discourse to a new low in his attack on the array of groups that have lined up against the Government's proposed legislation to mandate widespread warrantless electronic surveillance.
Bill C-30, the - and I'm not making this up - the "Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act", would mandate internet and cellular service providers to provide personal information about their customers and to share their electronic communications, including following their movements via cell phone signals, in realtime to various law enforcement agencies - without a warrant.
It's a classic power grab, unshackled from judicial oversight, and there's absolutely no reason for a free and democratic society to give its government such sweeping authority to invade personal privacy without due process.
The government already has all the power it needs to seek a court warrant and obtain data from digital service providers. As Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart wrote in an October 26, 2011 letter to Toews:
Despite repeated calls, no systematic case has yet been made to justify the extent of the new investigative capabilities that would have been created by the bills. Canadian authorities have yet to provide the public with evidence to suggest that CSIS or Canadian police cannot perform their duties under the current regime. One-off cases and isolated incidents should not prove the rule, nor should exigent or emergency circumstances, for which there are already Criminal Code provisions.
As well, if the concern of law enforcement agencies is that it is difficult to obtain warrants or judicial authorization in a timely way, these administrative challenges should be addressed by administrative solutions rather than by weakening long-standing legal principles that uphold Canadians' fundamental freedoms.
In fact, Canadian service providers already tend to provide customer data to the government without a court warrant. This is a legitimate privacy concern, but the bill would only formalize and expand such abuse of privacy instead of mitigating it.
But that hasn't stopped Toews from lobbing the most reprehensible smears against principled opponents to this unjustified power grab.
After Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia criticized the government for "preparing to read Canadians' emails and track their movements through cell phone signals", Toews launched into his vile counterattack:
He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.
Not content to take responsibility for the sheer inappropriateness of this charge, Toews subsequently denied saying it.
Then he denied it again. So much for the party of personal responsibility.
Michael Geist, Canada's leading advocate for sane internet policy, has documented Toew's pattern of smears against advocates for the past several weeks.
I would call on the Liberals to finally stop putting the rights of child pornographers and organized crime ahead of the rights of law-abiding citizens.
Rather than making things easier for child pornographers, I call on the NDP to listen to the police, listen to the provinces, and support these balanced measures that protect law-abiding Canadians and their children.
Lawful access will aid child porn investigations. I call on the NDP to stop making things easier for predators and support these measures.
OpenMedia.ca has launched a petition to send a message to the Government:
We oppose mandatory Internet surveillance. This scheme is poorly thought out, costly, and will leave our personal information less secure. Unchecked mass surveillance is a breach of our fundamental right to privacy.
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