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The Pressure's On Harper to End Online Spying -- Let's Keep it Up

05/24/2014 11:37 EDT | Updated 07/24/2014 05:59 EDT
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It looks like the rumble against the government's Online Spying Bill C-13 is turning into a roar.

Leading Conservative elder statesman Stockwell Day has joined the growing chorus of Canadians speaking out about how Bill C-13 would expose law-abiding Canadians to warrantless government spying. If passed, the controversial bill would grant immunity to telecom companies who hand our private information to the government without a warrant.

In hard-hitting remarks on CBC's Power and Politics, Stockwell Day expressed sympathy with the views of Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian, who recently called for Bill C-13 to be split to remove its online spying proposals:

"There can be an overreaction in terms of how you correct it. So [Cavoukian is] raising a bit of an alarm here. Let's be very careful in how we could protect someone in a situation like this, but let's also be careful in going too far and limiting even things like free speech, [or using] invasive techniques that could be employed by policing."

"I'm hoping they take another look at this and kind of curtail some of those powers," Day added.

These remarks by such a prominent senior Conservative (Day is the former leader of the Canadian Alliance, the forerunner to today's Conservative party) are sure to add to the growing pressure on Defence Minister Peter MacKay to split C-13.

Day's comments come hot on the heels of passionate Parliamentary testimony by Carol Todd, the mother of cyberbullying victim Amanda Todd. Carol bravely told key MPs to stop using bullied children as an excuse to drive forward measures that undermine everybody's privacy:

"I don't want to see our children victimized again by losing privacy rights. I am troubled by some of these provisions condoning the sharing of the privacy information of Canadians without proper legal process. We are Canadians with strong civil rights and values. A warrant should be required before any Canadian's personal information is turned over to anyone, including government authorities. We should also be holding our telecommunication companies and Internet providers responsible for mishandling our private and personal information. We should not have to choose between our privacy and our safety."

Meanwhile Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian -- one of Canada's foremost privacy watchdogs -- is also speaking out to warn Canadians about Bill C-13. In a robustly worded letter to the chair of the Parliamentary Committee examining the bill, Cavoukian wrote:

"The time for dressing up overreaching surveillance powers in the sheep-like clothing of sanctimony about the serious harms caused by child pornography and cyberbullying is long past"...

"To this day, the government continues to suggest that Canadians must live with bulked up surveillance powers, and limited oversight and accountability. The trade-off being sold to us is grounded in false assumptions and needlessly risks our right to live in a free society, today and well into the future."

The message from all this is clear -- the long-simmering rumble of discontent about reckless and out-of-control government spying is turning into an upsurge, as more and more Canadians speak out. Stockwell Day's intervention yesterday is particularly significant. A key turning point in the successful battle against the government's previous spying bill (C-30) was when conservatives started to speak out.

After all, there's no doubt that Stockwell Day is speaking on behalf of countless grassroots conservative supporters across the country. A recent poll revealed that millions of Conservative voters are opposed to mass surveillance. We hope that pressure from Canadians will encourage Conservative MPs to start speaking out about the hugely unpopular blanket spying measures in Bill C-13. They should put both public and private pressure on Defence Minister MacKay to split the bill and remove the online spying provisions.

And let's not forget that criticism of the online spying bill comes from across the political spectrum. We've seen leading figures from the NDP, the Liberals, and the Green Party all speak out against this reckless online spying plan. None of this would have happened without you and tens of thousands of other Canadians taking action to pressure decision-makers. And our own Steve Anderson is planning to take your voices directly to leading MPs. Steve is currently scheduled to testify on June 3 before key MPs on the Parliamentary committee examining Bill C-13 -- we'll let you know early next week how you can help shape Steve's testimony.

That's not all. In the past few days alone we've seen two major efforts from members of Canada's largest-ever Privacy Coalition to curtail the government's out of control spying. First, coalition members at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association joined with leading expert Dr. Chris Parsons to announce a landmark constitutional challenge to the parts of Canada's privacy legislation that enable the government to obtain our private information without a warrant.

Second, dozens of top privacy experts, supported by pro-privacy groups including OpenMedia.ca, launched the Ottawa Statement on Mass Surveillance -- a set of high-level proposals to rein in out-of-control government spying for once and for all. (Learn more and sign on to the Statement here)

Tens of thousands of Canadians are now speaking out to demand an end to online spying, and new privacy rules to safeguard law-abiding Canadians from government surveillance. It's never been more important to keep up the pressure -- here's how you can help:

It feels like momentum is on our side now, as more and more people speak out from across the political spectrum. If we keep up this pressure we can win -- so let's keep speaking up!

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