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0 Government will ‘entertain amendments’ to online surveillance bill

New Brunswick Conservative MP John Williamson, the former director of communications to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said he shares the concerns of Canadians across the country, who are worried about the bill as it currently stands.
“I have concerns about the way the bill is drafted,” Williamson told reporters Wednesday on Parliament Hill.
“It’s too intrusive as it currently stands and does need to be looked at. There’s a lot of concern, I think, across the country,” he said. “It’ll go to committee and we haven’t had a frank discussion on it yet in caucus, so that will come.”
Facing questions Wednesday from interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel about “giving themselves the right to snoop in everybody’s computer,” Harper wouldn’t commit to tabling amendments to the bill but hinted the government is open to amendments.

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“We’ve been very clear. We’re working with provinces and with police to attack problems of online pornography, child pornography, but of course we will ensure that Parliament fully studies this bill and that private life is also protected in this regard,” Harper said during question period.
“We want to fix our laws while striking the right balance when it comes to privacy. We will send this legislation directly to committee for a full and wide ranging examination of the best way to do what is right for our children,” added Public Safety Minister Vic Toews in a more tempered response to questions from the opposition.
When pressed further by the Liberals during Question Period, Toews said that: “we will entertain amendments.”
When Toews tabled the bill Tuesday, it was called the Lawful Access Act, but that version was quickly withdrawn and replaced with the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act.
The name change followed a remark made Monday by Toews, who said a critic of the bill “can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.”
On Wednesday, the NDP’s digital affairs critic Charlie Angus picked up on the name change to accuse Toews of “hiding behind children” and “using child victims as political cover so that minister can treat average Canadians like criminals. Why this abuse of public trust and why this abuse of our child victims?” Angus said in the House of Commons.
Following question period, Calgary Tory member of Parliament Rob Anders, who represents one of the most conservative ridings in the country, said his office has already been hearing from constituents concerned about the bill, and he expects changes are coming to it.
“I imagine there’s probably going to be amendments to it,” Anders said. “I think there’s probably ways to set it up so that you could allow for immediacy in the case of child pornography but still have a way of seeking some warrants. I think that’s probably the way to go.”
Ontario Conservative MP David Tilson said “there’s no question it’s a privacy issue,” and that he still has a number of concerns about the bill that he wants addressed.
‘It’s time Canadians come to grips with the unfortunate truth that the federal government simply isn’t interested in demonstrating any sort of thoughtful leadership when it comes to the pressing digital issues of our day’
“I want to be satisfied that if the police are eavesdropping on people that they have permission from the courts. If they don’t have that, well, then I’ll be concerned. So I want to hear more about it first,” Tilson told reporters.
The legislation will require telecommunications companies to hand over personal information of customers, called basic subscriber information, to police without a court order.
In addition to name, address, phone number, email address and name of service provider identifier, the bill will require companies to hand over the Internet protocol address. The opposition parties and Canada’s privacy commissioners say this will allow police to build a detailed profile of people, including law-abiding citizens, using their digital footprint — without any judicial oversight.
The proposed bill will also require Internet service providers and cellphone companies to install equipment for real-time surveillance and will create new police powers designed to access the surveillance data. This means police can order a telecom company to preserve data for a specified period, but must first obtain a warrant to read the actual content.
Canada’s privacy commissioners pleaded unsuccessfully to the government last year to drop the warrantless access to basic subscriber info from the legislation.
Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s privacy commissioner, is now wading into the name change.
“They’re calling the bill ‘Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act.’ Give me a break. The warrantless access does not just apply to cases of child pornography or child predators. It can apply to something that’s not even a criminal activity. It’s ridiculous to go to these lengths. And why are they doing it? They’re doing it because they want to instil fear on the part of the public and say, ‘Well, if you don’t give us this bill, then all child pornographers, those predators, that’s going to be on your head.’ And that’s what they want the public to fear,” Cavoukian told Postmedia News.

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