Ottawa's ISP spying law heading to committee
Published Sunday, February 19, 2012 2:01PM EST Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 7:30AM EDT
The federal government's controversial bill that critics say would allow online spying without a warrant will head to committee for input, a spokesman for the prime minister said Sunday.
Opposition attacks on Bill C-30 are "irresponsible and unfortunate," but the Conservatives are willing to listen, parliamentary secretary Dean Del Mastro told CTV's Question Period.
"We're going to send it to committee . . . we're prepared to say to the opposition parties, ‘Give us suggestions, tell us how to move forward'," he said Sunday.
The bill - Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act (C-30) - has come under fire as draconian in the House of Commons, with opposition MPs and even some members of the Conservative caucus opposing it.
The issue sparked vigorous debate on CTV's Question Period with the Liberals and the NDP calling on the government to either rethink the law or scrap it.
Essentially, C-30 would force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to allow for access to private data without a warrant, the installation of expensive surveillance equipment and for the minister to appoint anyone to search the data, not just police.
It also permits that person to duplicate the data without oversight or appeal.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said during debate in the House this week that anyone who opposed the law was supporting child pornographers.
That, plus additional details about the law, stoked the anonymous creation of a Twitter account -- @Vikileaks30 -- that published personal information on Toews, including details of his divorce, family and spending as an MP.
In turn, a Twitter hashtag #tellviceverything exploded in popularity as people tweeted their everyday activities from the mundane to the ridiculous. The hashtag became the second-most talked about Twitter topic in the world.
Vikileaks30 shut down Friday, after the Ottawa Citizen reported the feed was coming from an Internet Protocol (IP) address inside Parliament.
The government asked the Speaker to investigate, while pointing a finger at the New Democrats. The NDP has denied its involvement.
Del Mastro said the public policy initiative behind the bill is to give additional tools to stop child pornography online.
"We know that in 2010 incidents involving child pornography are up 36 per cent, that's convictions," he said, adding the Ontario Provincial Police "rescued" 22 kids by getting 60 IP addresses out of 9,000.
But New Democrat MP Jack Harris said the government was merely creating a "smokescreen for legislation that's clearly unpalatable to privacy commissioners, to the general public and even to Conservative backbenchers.
"They have accused anybody who challenges it of being child pornographers and they now have to acknowledge the minister himself is clearly not even aware of what's in the legislation," Harris told CTV.
Harris said he doubts the bill can be salvaged and has called on the government to kill it and start over.
Suggesting Toews either didn't read it or didn't understand it, Liberal MP Marc Garneau said it's obvious the government knows C-30 is flawed or it wouldn't have put it to committee before a second reading in the House.
"This bill is not ready to come forward and has got to go back to the drawing board," Garneau said.
Del Mastro said the bill is the equivalent of a "21st century phonebook" and "we just want to know who the IP addresses belong to (and) from there if there's anything they need to investigate, they must have a warrant."
Harris challenged Del Mastro's assertion that all attorney generals across the country support the law.
"We've got some problems here, serious problems and the government should be big enough to admit they misfired on this one . . . they should draw it back and listen to the critiques out there and do it again," Harris said.
On the subject of the Twitter account, Garneau said while not condoning it, the government wouldn't have listened if it wasn't for advocacy groups and the public speaking out.
Harris said it was outrageous and baseless for the Conservatives to blame the NDP for the Twitter feed.
"It has nothing to do with the style of our challenges against the bill itself and against the effects it has on the privacy of Canadians," he said.