“He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.”
This was Mr. Toews’s, the Minister of Justice, counterattack to a question in the house regarding concerns of letting the police monitor citizens internet use without a warrant.
Apparently this is our choice: a big brother state or child pornography.
This is, of course, ridiculous. Not to mention frightening. But this is the world Canadians will be entering in a few short weeks once the new Conservative Crime bill passes. The provisions that require a warrant, are interesting: the bill forces internet service providers to record and make available, to both police and governments, their customers internet activity such as the websites they visit. Citizen, understand, this now means that Bell, Rogers or anyone else that provides you with internet on your phone or at your home will now be recording every website you visit. Disturbed about that invasion of privacy? It gets worse.
Most disconcerting is that police would be allowed to obtain your email address, your IP addresses (which often identifies you on the Internet – your home, for example, likely has an IP address), or your mobile phone number and other information without a warrant. They just have to demand it. Suddenly a lot of what you can do online can be monitored by the police – again, without a warrant.
It isn’t just opposition members who are concerned. The Federal Privacy Commissioner and provincial counterparts are deeply concerned. They understand what this means. As Jennifer Stoddart, the federal Privacy Commissioner wrote to Minister Toews:
I am also concerned about the adoption of lower thresholds for obtaining personal information from commercial enterprises. The new powers envisaged are not limited to specific, serious offences or urgent or exceptional situations. In the case of access to subscriber data, there is not even a requirement for the commission of a crime to justify access to personal information – real names, home address, unlisted numbers, email addresses, IP addresses and much more – without a warrant.
In a few short weeks, this will be our reality: we will live in a country where the government can gain access to information that enables them to monitor its citizens online without a warrant. Obviously, the opportunities for abuse are astounding. If you are a
radical element non-profit advocacy group that disagrees with the government, you’re probably doubly concerned. Of course, if you are an regular citizen I hope you haven’t written any anonymous comments in opposition to the Gateway Pipelines, since this legislation, combined with the government’s new focus on eco-terrorists (they are as much a threat as neo-nazi groups apparently) could make you a “vulnerable individual” and so an obvious target for security forces.
Of course the real irony of all this is that while the government seeks to increase its powers to monitor Canadians online it has used the opposite argument – the fear of government intrusion into citizens lives – to end the long gun registry. Not 6 days ago, Conservative Larry Miller (Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound) expressed his concern about how the gun registry would help foster a police state:
[…] Before I discuss the bill I would like to review how we arrived at where we are today. I would like to share with the House a quote from former Liberal justice minister Allan Rock: “I came to Ottawa last year, with a firm belief that the only people in Canada who should have firearms are police officers and the military.”
Does that sound familiar? Adolf Hitler, 1939.
You know what really reminds me of Adolf Hitler, 1939? A government that seeks to monitor the actions of all its citizens. That ask companies to record their activities in their homes and their places of work and that gives the police the right to access their personal information without a warrant. As a father I agree we need to fight child pornography, but I’m not willing to sign away my – or my children’s – civil rights and online privacy. I suspect most Canadians, as they learn more about this bill, will feel the same way. They don’t want any government, Conservative, Liberal or NDP, recording what they do, or accessing information about them without a warrant from an independent judiciary.
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