Canada creeping toward Big Brother state with online surveillance bill, critics warn

An online surveillance bill tabled Tuesday in Canada gives law enforcement 21st-century tools, and those who don’t support it side with child pornographers, the public safety minister said.

The ruling Conservative government introduced the legislation as expected a day after Public Safety Minister Vic Toews derided the opposition for criticizing the bill.

Toews told an opposition Member of Parliament “he can either stand with us or with the child pornographers,” CBC reported.

Called the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, it forces Internet service providers to install hardware and software to track a user’s digital footprint. It also allows police to request personal information – such as name, address and phone numbers – without a warrant.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said provisions exist within the bill to control the number of times police can access the power.

“It will put in place safeguards to protect the privacy of Canadians,” he said, according to the Toronto Star.

Opposition parties said the act paints all Canadians with the same brush, and gives police and security agencies license to snoop.

It also violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said.

“You’re the worst form of scum if you believe the charter’s an important instrument for the rule of law in this country,” she said, the Star reported. “I’m horrified by this kind of rhetoric. It demeans us all.”

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Technology experts suggest police can already access the information Nicholson is after thanks to existing, informal agreements between ISPs and law enforcement.

However, University of Ottawa Prof. Michael Geist said the new law would prevent ISPs from declining a police request without a warrant.

“Ninety-five per cent of the time, the police already get the info,” the University of Ottawa professor told The Globe and Mail. “What we're really talking about here is just the last five per cent.

“It reshapes what the Internet looks like in Canada; it creates a full surveillance infrastructure. Once it’s there, there’s no turning back.”

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