Bill C-30: What A Crapstorm

Over the last week, Canada was introduced to a new bill that was tabled in Parliament. Called Bill C-30: Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, the bill aims to protect kids from predators online. The problem according to many is that to do so, it allows polices among others to read Canadians’ emails and track their movements through cellphone signals, in both cases without a warrant. This has created a firestorm within Canada filled with rhetoric and devoid of facts. Here’s an example. Justice Minister Vic Towes when introducing this bill made the statement that you “can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.” You can imagine the crapstorm that this created. Here’s what Charlie Angus who is the NDP critic for this sort of thing:

“I say to Vic Toews, ‘Stop hiding behind the boogey man. Stop using the boogey man to attack the basic rights of Canadian citizens.’ Is Vic Toews saying that Stockwell Day supports child pornography? Is Vic Toews saying that every privacy commissioner in this country who has raised concerns about this government’s attempt to erase the basic obligation to get a judicial warrant, is he saying that they’re for child pornography?”

Stockwell Day, who served as public safety minister from 2006 to 2008, assured the public during his tenure that the government would not introduce legislation forcing Internet service providers to give customer information without a warrant.

It only escalated from there. A Twitter account (which is now closed) then leaked details about Towes divorce. The details to say the least are tawdry and I will not repeat them here. But it was the beginning. A new hashtag called #TellVicEverything was soon created and the Twitterverse soon Tweeted some “interesting” details to Minister Towes. Sadly it still didn’t end there. This weekend on CBC Radio, Minster Towes seemed surprised about the contents of the bill when he was interviewed on the CBC radio show called “The House:”

“I’d certainly like to see an explanation of that,” Toews told host Evan Solomon after a week of public backlash against Bill C-30, which would require internet service providers to turn over client information without a warrant.

“This is the first time that I’m hearing this somehow extends ordinary police emergency powers [to telecommunications]. In my opinion, it doesn’t. And it shouldn’t.”

Towes press people then clarified the statement:

Toews’ director of communications, Mike Patton, followed up with an email that explained “the Minister has said numerous times, nothing contained in the legislation gives officers further powers to access any sort of communication without a warrant.”

“[Section 17] simply extends the powers of a police officer to request ‘phonebook’ information — from the limited number of officers in a normal circumstance to any officer in an emergency.”

Wow, that’s clear as mud isn’t it?

To add to the fun, the notorious hacker group Anonymous posted the video below to Youtube:

If this is from Anonymous, these are likely the last people in the world that Towes wants to mess with. The fact that they are apparently getting involved in this raises the stakes.

Somewhere along the line, the bill has been sent to committee after second reading, the idea is that it will be debated there prior to being brought forward for third and final reading. But that’s done little to stop the crapstorm in progress.

So what does the IT Nerd think of this bill? I am all for protecting children on line and I am all for giving law enforcement the tools to fight crime online. However, I have huge problems when when a bill threatens to take away, or at the very least interfere the rights of Canadians. Perhaps this bill doesn’t do that. I don’t know. But I do know that there needs to be a healthy discussion about this to make sure that there are no unfortunate side effects to this bill. That discussion isn’t helped by statements like the one made by Minister Towes that paints opponents of this bill as people who will side with pedophiles. It’s also not helped (though I will admit it is entertaining to watch) by people posting personal details about Minister Towes online. Perhaps all sides need to take a deep breath, talk about the ramifications of this bill in a calm rational manner. But with everything being jacked up to this degree, that won’t happen. That’s a shame because something this important needs this sort of discussion. Otherwise, all Canadians regardless of political belief will be cheated.

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