Dubious bill

Conservative government should back off on internet spy law

The Conservative government’s proposed online surveillance bill has got to be one of the worst pieces of legislation ever conceived.

Indeed, police need better tools for tracking crime on the Internet — but are we as Canadians willing to abandon the rule of law and due diligence and allow unfettered access to personal information? Currently, police must get warrants in their investigation of criminal matters to balance the conflicting interests of the state and people’s right to privacy.

According to public safety minister Vic Toews, to oppose the Conservatives’ plan to do away with that balance in Internet cases, means we are ‘standing with the child pornographers’.

It’s just this type of fear-mongering and specious reasoning that brands opponents of such legislation in a negative light. It’s a political strategy to stave off criticism. Toss out the words ‘child pornography’ and we all recoil in horror — reasonable people want this crime to stop. Then the government will point out child porn crimes have gone up in recent years. Statistics Canada’s outline of police-reported crimes in 2010 showed there were 2,190 child porn cases, 36 per cent more than 2009’s number of 1,610. Sounds like the police are doing their job already, and finding the criminals or criminal acts.

That’s one way to look at it. Another would be to take the 36 per cent statistic and use it to sell this bill. That figure alone seems steep. Only assaults on police officers and aggravated sexual assaults have increased more — yet those numbers are quite low.

The attack on child pornographers in the announcement of this bill is only a small part of its potential uses. The feds also want it use it to track organized crime. This, despite Stats Can’s 2010 police-reported crimes shows an almost across-the-board drop in crime rates.

As Internet-based crime continues to be a concern (child porn, scams, bullying etc.), it’s important for police to be able to keep up and get the information they need in a timely manner.

But we shouldn’t abandon the checks and balances in place to insure the state’s interests do not override our own. — editorial by Steven Heywood