02/20/2012 04:00 EST | Updated 04/21/2012 05:12 EDT

Vic Toews, Public Safety Minister, Threats Draw RCMP Response


OTTAWA - The RCMP say they've not yet decided whether they will launch a full investigation into threats made against Public Safety Minister Vic Toews connected to the introduction of an online surveillance bill.

Toews or officials in his department have provided information to the Mounties on the nature of the threats — described by the public safety minister as criminal acts — but the Mounties wouldn't disclose any details.

"We've received information from Public Safety so what we're going to do is we're going to examine that information," RCMP Cpl. David Falls said Monday.

"Depending on the situation, we may or may not initiate an investigation."

Toews has been the target of a sustained online campaign in response to last week's introduction of Bill C-30, an Internet surveillance bill.

Among other things, the bill gives authorities access to Internet subscriber information without requiring a warrant and there are concerns that it violates the privacy of Internet users.

Part of the campaign against the bill involved the publication of the minister's divorce records, while other people are mocking the bill's supposed powers by sending the minister mundane details of their lives.

A video claiming to be by the activist group Anonymous surfaced over the weekend suggesting the heat on the minister could intensify unless the bill is scrapped.

In the letter to residents of his Manitoba riding, Toews characterized the campaign as an "extensive personal attack by my political opponents."

"These attacks, which have included criminal acts and threats of criminal acts against me and my family, have been referred to the police for investigation. Any further criminal activity or threats of criminal activity against me or my family will also be referred to the police," Toews wrote in the letter, which was published by the Winnipeg Free Press.

Falls would not say if Toews is getting an increased level of protection beyond pointing out that police routinely assess the threat level facing ministers and adjust their protection accordingly. He declined to comment further.

Police chiefs suggested Monday that the public doesn't need to fear the bill, using a news conference in Vancouver to cement their support for the legislation.

"People need to focus and keep their eye on the ball," said Warren Lemcke, Vancouver's deputy chief constable.

"We can't monitor your emails. We can't monitor your phone calls. We can't monitor your surfing unless a judge allows us to do that."

The president of the Canadian Police Association said cops aren't interested in monitoring the communication of Canadians who aren't committing crimes.

"We're talking about serious criminal offences," Tom Stamatakis said.

"Even if the police wanted, in some pervasive way, to monitor phones, ISPs (of the public), we don't have the capacity. This is legislation that's designed to give the police the tools to better deal with serious organized crime."

The backlash over the bill saw the Conservatives agree to send it quickly to committee for detailed study and possible amendments.

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