Saanich MP calls Internet privacy bill ‘propaganda’

Opposition MPs say ‘Internet predator’ protection act allows for breaches of privacy

  • Mon Feb 20th, 2012 1:00pm
  • News

A Greater Victoria MP says the federal government’s contentious Internet privacy bill – named the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act – is pure propaganda.

Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, says the bill is laden with problems that should concern Canadians who don’t want their privacy severely intruded upon.

“I find the bill troubling on substantive levels, but I also find it really offensive that the communications and marketing strategy (for the bill) is to equate anyone with deep concerns about this bill with child pornographers,” said May, leader of the federal Green Party. “Other than the fact it’s for propaganda purposes, there’s no reason to call it about Internet predators. It’s much broader than that.

Though she sees merit in certain parts of the bill (like making online harassment a criminal offence), May says there are too many unnecessary allowances in the bill that nobody is asking for – save for the Conservative government.

“Law enforcement is not begging for this, and privacy commissioners, whose job it is to protect the privacy of Canadians, are saying this is wrong,” she said. “(The privacy commissioners are) not an organized lobby that stands with cild pornographers, these are the people hired by the government to be concerned with the privacy of our information.”

B.C.’s information and privacy commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, spoke at a conference in Victoria Friday, and touched on Bill C-30.

“This is an unprecedented and unjustified erosion of Canadians’ privacy rights,” she said, encouraging citizens to speak out against the bill. “Citizens made the difference in the United States, when we saw a groundswell of opposition to (the Stop Online Piracy Act) legislation. Perhaps there is an opportunity for a SOPA-esque moment here in Canada, too.”

Victoria MP Denise Savoie said she’s disappointed the government’s focus has been on equating opposition to the bill with Internet predators.

“I think Canadians are concerned, and so am I, about cracking down on child pornography, but I think they’re also concerned about civil rights,” she said. “I’m hoping that we can achieve a law that gets at those who are into child pornography without treating all law-abiding Canadians like criminals.”

May said she’s also concerned about the bill’s requirement that all Internet service providers be ready, at a moment’s notice, to provide police with personal information on customers and their online activities.

“For one, this requires Internet service providers to make a substantial financial investment in being tech-ready … to intercept the communications of all their customers,” May said. “But also once you keep a database (of customer information, you’ve created a hacker’s dream.”

Late last week, the bill was sent to a special committee for review and amendments, before it will return to the House of Commons for second reading.

This is likely because of backlash to the bill, said May, who remains concerned it will return for second reading with little change, before being adopted by the Conservative majority.

“Everything will pass the way (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper wants it, so I think we need to push back as hard as we can,” she said. “The Harper Conservatives have been very resistant to any amendments – it’s as though making an amendment is a sign of political defeat, so I’m very concerned.”

Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has said the bill does not give police any more allowances to access information than they currently have.

The bill was created because “criminals, gangs and terrorists have found ways to exploit technological innovations to hide their illegal activities,” Toews said in a press release.

kslavin@saanichnews.com

Our view: Bill C-30 shows Tories’ hypocrisy