The government IS watching

By: Virago

Screen shot 2021-07-06 at 2.48.40 PM.pngImage source Flickr

Back in February of this year, the Harper government boldly introduced a new bill entitled the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act , known officially as Bill C-30. It is a proposed amendment to the Canadian Criminal Code that would require telecommunication service providers to log all personal subscriber information such as their name, address, unlisted and cell phone numbers and IP address (one's online identity) for release to the authorities upon their potential request. More importantly, the bill would make backdoor functions mandatory, securing unannounced remote access to individuals' electronics and the information within them by bypassing the need for permission or passwords. And all of this, without a warrant! This bill would effectively grant the government the surveillance power to track and monitor the digital lives of all innocent and law-abiding Canadians - not just the very minute portion suspected of child-related crimes. The current government is not beyond meaningless bill name changes to sound more appealing, false justifications and childish proclamations, or even infringing on civil right in order to force through this privacy-invading bill under the guise of "protecting children".

The bill was presented by Conservative MP and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews as a necessary step to end child trafficking and pornography in Canada. He said, "This is legislation that civilized, democratic countries around the world recognize is important in order to deal with some very significant problems."1 (CBC News) The problem with that claim, however, is that beyond the mention of "protecting children from predators" in its title, the words "children" or "internet predator" oddly do not appear anywhere in the bill's actual content. Furthermore, Bill C-30 was originally labeled the Lawful Access Act - a name that mayhave rubbed citizens the wrong way, one that might confirm any uneasy feeling that the government would like access to more of our information. No wonder they decided to change it. Shortly after its appearance, the bill was quickly tabled. An hour or so later, an identical document reemerged carefully renamed the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act. Perhaps they thought this wording might better tug at people's heartstrings, yet Canadians still question its true intentions despite the latest unchanged incarnation.

Screen shot 2021-07-06 at 2.50.27 PM.pngImage source Flickr

Another alleged aim of Bill C-30 was to bring the current Canadian Criminal Code up to date by amending it to include digital age technologies like the internet and portable devices, that are often used in crimes involving children. The revision of such an important legislature to encompass modern technologies seems like a logical step in keeping with current trends and new threats. That is, until we recall another important detail adding to the suspicious nature of this bill - the fact that the Canadian Criminal Code was already amended, back in 2002, to incorporate the internet. From that point on, the Code has included new offenses that would "help combat the luring of minors by making it illegal to communicate with children over the Internet for the purpose of committing a sexual offense".2 (Stats Canada). The fact that the internet had already been integrated into the Criminal Code on this specific topic makes Toews' reasoning both inaccurate and misleading.

The Conservatives have also resorted to childish tactics and false proclamations in order to pressure people into supporting the bill. Embarrassingly similar to George W. Bush's famous attempt to gain followers in an illegal war, Toews stood in the House of Commons and boldly told another MP that he "can either stand with us or with the child pornographers."3 (The Globe and Mail) He publicly denied4 ( making such a statement the very next day, evidently forgetting about the video footage that would soon be broadcast nationally. If standing up for one's rights and freedoms, in this case to oppose a harsh privacy-violating bill that targets the entire country, makes an MP bark remarks as uncalled for as this, it might just be time to be concerned about our government.

Most important is the issue of human rights and freedoms at stake under this proposed bill. The Conservatives have been facing much criticism over their desire for unwarranted surveillance and expanded powers in cases not involving criminality. As it currently stands, police can obtain warrants allowing them to track information sent online, and to have courts force companies to preserve electronic evidence. So why the sudden urge to forego the need for a warrant? If there is reasonable suspicion of an individual's wrongdoings or one iota of proof, then a warrant can be awarded, and a legal search or invasion of said person's privacy will be performed. Why would they require the ability to attack everyone's personal information, and without their knowledge, if they can easily obtain that same information with a warrant, as is? The wording of this bill is so vague that it would allow, unofficially, access beyond the case of criminality. In the wrong hands, any sarcastic text in an email sent years ago by an innocent person could easily be taken out of context and be used against them. And as we know, no organization is immune to corruption. So much for "innocent until proven guilty". It does beg the question: why are they so eager to risk citizens' privacy? After all, this is the same government that brewed up hysteria over the gun registry, that fought tooth and nail against it in order to "protect the privacy" of a much smaller portion of citizens who actually own dangerous weapons. None of this makes sense.

In this digital day and age, we know the government already possesses enough information on everyone to make even the most innocent uncomfortable. However, knowing this same body is specifically doing everything in its power to make that a legal reality is cause for concern. But the real problem with Bill C-30 lies more with how they blatantly mislead, lie, pressure, and even contradict themselves in such a desperate attempt to elicit support, and all under such false pretenses. It seems they will stop at nothing to get this legislation passed. Surely a sensible bill without a hidden agenda would not be met with such friction, which leads one to ponder what their ulterior motives are.


1. News, CBC. "Internet Surveillance Bill Not Dead, Toews Says." CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 16 May 2012. Web. 1 June 2012. .
2. Canada. Statistics Canada. Child Luring through the Internet. By Jennifer Loughlin and Andrea Taylor-Butts. Statistics Canada, Mar. 2009. Web. 1 June 2012. .
3. IBBITSON, JOHN. "Tories on E-snooping: 'Stand with Us or with the Child Pornographers'" The Globe and Mail., 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 05 June 2012. .
4. Schmidt, Sarah. "Http://" Editorial. Postmedia Network Inc., 15 Feb. 2012. Web. 05 June 2012. 

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