The government gets a lesson after slinging mud too far

The government gets a lesson after slinging mud too far

It took a number of bad weeks in a row for the government to finally realize that ramming every piece of legislation through parliament without input from all sides of the House is not the best path to acceptable legislation.  The change finally came as the government’ s bill for lawful access on the internet was sent to committee for amendments in an out-of-order fashion (for the legislative process) after a few days of furious protest in parliament, but more so, among the general Canadian Public.

The decision came after a few raucous days in Parliament that saw Public Safety Minister,  Vic Toews characterize anyone with objections to his plans for greater internet surveillance on individuals as defenders of child pornographers.  The over the top slur was not helpful and only made the Minister seem rigid and absurd given the kind of people who had raised red-flags over elements of the bill.

Opponents to the legislation, as it has been proposed, were not run of the mill types either.  The Privacy Commissioner is hardly the type to go to the wall on behalf of child pornographers and the Minister knew as much.  So did the Prime Minister who tried to stop the bleeding by signalling the government was willing to accept reasonable amendments on the legislation and followed that up by sending the bill to committee for those amendments before it had passed 2nd reading in parliament.

The government should have known they were heading down a rocky path.  When he was Minister, Stockwell Day promised that any new internet snooping laws would ensure adequate judicial oversight. Given that Mr. Day was one of the Prime Ministers best performers in both Conservative minority parliaments, one would imagine that Mr. Harper would have remembered his decision and reasons for not pursuing big-brother styled tactics. 

Much fun has been had at Mr. Toews expense in the days following the tabling of his bill.  A twitter campaign quickly grew to bring the most mundane parts of people’s daily lives to the Minister’s attention under the catch-phrase ‘tell Vic everything.’   It is an example of how strongly people feel about access to and privacy on the internet.  

The general public is more concerned about allowing personal information to be obtained without a warrant than the government thought.  The bill, as it was presented, is a violation of the rights and freedoms of law-abiding Canadians.   With the bill in committee, one can hope that the process is able to find that elusive balance that will allow police to do their job, while affording individuals a reasonable amount of privacy as to their actions on the internet.