Toews accuses critics of siding with child pornographers
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, February 13, 2012 10:53PM EST
OTTAWA - The government says anyone who opposes federal plans to make electronic surveillance easier for police and spies is siding with child pornographers.
It's the first salvo in a battle that will resume Tuesday when the government reintroduces legislation that would expand online monitoring powers.
The issue pits the desire of intelligence and law-enforcement officials to have easier access to information about Internet users against the individual's right to privacy.
Asked Monday in the House of Commons about the coming bill, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told a Liberal MP he could either stand with the government or "with the child pornographers" prowling online.
Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart has warned against simply resurrecting a trio of previous federal bills to expand surveillance powers, citing several shortcomings.
Of particular concern to the privacy commissioner are provisions that would allow authorities access to Internet subscriber information without first getting a court's go-ahead.
Toews office has said the government will strike an appropriate balance between necessary investigative powers and the protection of privacy.
Still, opposition MPs were alarmed by his comments Monday.
"Apparently if you care about civil liberties in this country you obviously side with child pornographers, murderers," said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.
"You're the worst form of scum if you believe the charter's an important instrument for the rule of law in this country. I'm horrified by this kind of rhetoric. It demeans us all."
New Democrat MP Peter Julian accused the government of asking people to make "absurd choices."
"They simply do not have any credibility when it comes to putting in place a justice system that actually protects Canadians."