Maybe you can help me figure something out: How is it exactly that the same Conservative government so against gathering information about law abiding Canadians that they crippled the long form census and scrapped the long gun registry, is now so eager to give police the ability to gather information about Canadians using the Internet, in the chance that child pornographers could be caught faster?
The Census was scrapped against an overwhelming storm of anger from opposition parties, citizens, social groups, religious groups, and scientists in and outside of Canada.
The Tories wondered why the government should care how many bedrooms you have.
The gun registry was supported by the national chiefs of police and criminal experts around the country as well as the provincial governments of Canada's largest provinces as an incredibly positive system that allowed police to know the whereabouts of guns that might be used against them or others.
But the Tories said long guns are an important way of life for many Canadians, a useful tool and perfectly legal. So why should the police want to have extra tracking of them and make those law abiding Canadians feel like criminals?
So now the majority Conservative government is pushing through another law as quickly as it can: the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act put forward by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. This law would give the police power to gather information about the activities of Canadians on the Internet from their service providers without a warrant.
So let me get this straight: You can't trust the police to sensibly deal with an official registry of guns which are legally owned by people. You also can't trust the government to track detailed information about a random sample of the population no matter how staggeringly useful it is. However, you can trust the police to ask for access to the activities of anyone on the Internet, anytime, without going to a judge to justify it based on a criminal investigation? These beliefs are conflicting.
Margaret Wente noticed this inconsistency too in her article "On Internet privacy, I'm with the child pornographers," and notes the essential irony of the different Conservative positions. But I think she does a disservice to the subtlety of the Canadian political landscape by falling into the easy, all too American-sounding dichotomy between liberal and conservative perspectives. I don't think this battle is about liberals who always want more government interference and conservatives who always want less. I think it's actually much simpler than that.
This is about the Conservative party targeting who it believes to be base supporters, people who want to keep their guns in peace and are suspicious of those who use the Internet too much. The problem is, I don't think those people exist. Almost all Canadians use the Internet every day and they all have an interest in overly-broad laws such as this one not being passed. This approach may backfire on the Conservatives just because of its sheer hypocrisy. Surely, a government that doesn't want to track our guns or our homes can refrain from finding out what we're up to online.
On top of that, they've released a real hornet's nest with this one. If you still don't really get what Twitter can be good for, head over there now by following this link for the #TellVicEverything discussion to see Twitter at its best: as a tool for spontaneously creating a community through shared expression of a prevailing mood in quick, witty statements.
The tag #TellVicEverything is trending in Canada -- an endless stream of hilarious and inane comments about what people are up to, just in case Minister Vic Toews wanted to know without a warrant.
It must be the greatest fear of the Conservative government coming true. They are now getting huge floods of unwanted information from law-abiding Canadians, something they said they never, ever wanted or deserved. Oh well, I'm sure they'll put it to good use.
UPDATE: On Monday Feb. 27, Liberal leader acknowledged that a Liberal staffer was behind the Vikileaks30 Twitter account that released information about Vic Toews' divorce. That person has been fired and Rae has apologized to the House Of Commons. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews faced an online backlash due to his championing of Bill C-30, the lawful access bill. Two hashtags, <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/search/%23donttoewsmebro -rt" target="_hplink">#donttoewsmebro</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/search?q=%23TellVicEverything" target="_hplink">#tellviceverything</a> became the vocal points of internet humour and commentary. Photo: CP
Like similar legislation introduced in the past by both Conservative and Liberal governments, the new bill includes provisions that would: <em>With files from CBC</em> (Shutterstock)
Require telecommunications and internet providers to give subscriber data to police, national security agencies and the Competition Bureau without a warrant, including names, phone numbers and IP addresses. (CP)
Force internet providers and other makers of technology to provide a "back door" to make communications accessible to police. (Getty)
Allow police to get warrants to obtain information transmitted over the internet and data related to its transmission, including locations of individuals and transactions. (Alamy)
Allow courts to compel other parties to preserve electronic evidence. (Alamy)
However, unlike the most recent previous version of the bill, the new legislation: (Alamy)
Requires telecommunications providers to disclose, without a warrant, just six types of identifiers from subscriber data instead of 11. (Alamy)
Provides for an internal audit of warrantless requests that will go to a government minister and oversight review body. Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews is pictured. (CP)
Includes a provision for a review after five years. (Alamy)
Allows telecommunications service providers to take 18 months instead of 12 months to buy equipment that would allow police to intercept communications. (Alamy)
Changes the definition of hate propaganda to include communication targeting sex, age and gender. (Alamy)
Follow Mark Crowley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@rateldajer