The Internet strikes back against Tory surveillance bill
Published Wednesday, February 15, 2012 8:58PM EST Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 7:28AM EDT
As Prime Minister Stephen Harper began backing off on his own online surveillance bill Wednesday, one of his ministers is learning a lesson that should be common adage by now -- don't anger the Internet.
After a vicious online backlash, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews indicated the government will consider amendments to Bill C-30 -- the proposed legislation that would give authorities greater access to citizen's private data without needing a warrant.
The proposed bill has gone over so poorly with Canadians that even some Tories suggested they couldn't vote for it.
New Brunswick Conservative MP John Williamson said he had concerns about the bill as it is now.
"It's too intrusive as it currently stands and does need to be looked at. There's a lot of concern, I think, across the country," he told reporters Wednesday. "It'll go to committee and we haven't had a frank discussion on it yet in caucus, so that will come."
There's little doubt the Conservatives are noting the bill's unpopularity with Canadians, many of whom have gone online to air their grievances.
Toews' aggressive defence of the bill has led to the debate getting personal as details of his messy divorce went online and went viral.
An anonymous Twitter account has been publishing excerpts of what are purportedly affidavits from his 2008 divorce. In less than 24 hours, it gathered about 5,000 followers.
"Vic wants to know about you," says the description for the account. "Let's get to know about Vic."
Toews has neither confirmed nor denied that the Twitter feed is accurate.
"I won't get involved in this kind of gutter politics," he said on his own Twitter account.
Details of Toews' divorce have been available online for years and are displayed prominently on his Wikipedia page.
Earlier this week, Toews said in the House of Commons that those who oppose the bill -- which would give authorities greater access to citizen's private data -- "can either stand with us or with the child pornographers."
The next day when CTV Power Play host Don Martin paraphrased Toews' statement back to him, the minister responded "I didn't say exactly that . . . in fact it was a far cry from that."
Part of the bill would allow authorities access to Internet subscriber information, such as names and addresses, before even getting a warrant.
NDP MP Charlie Angus has been a vocal critic of Toews throughout the week, but refused to address the Twitter account.
"I have absolutely no interest in Vic Toews' private life," Angus told reporters Wednesday. "I've got enough on this guy's public statements to say this man has some explaining to do to Canadians."
However, Liberal MP Justin Trudeau was hardly so kind.
He sent out at least two tweets to his 100,000-plus followers in mock support of Toews, linking to the Toews divorce Twitter account several times.