Dr. Dawg

Transparency, surveillance, and the vile Vic Toews

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Vic Toews1.jpg

The “transparent” Harper government wants to keep the work of parliamentary committee meetings a secret from Canadians.

A filibuster is presently under way in the Official Languages Committee to prevent the Cons from closing the door in perpetuity.

But, just as the government is moving to hide parliamentary work from its citizens, it is pressing ahead with a bill to give police unlimited, warrantless authority to spy on every Canadian with a computer or a cell phone.

What is being proposed moves us much closer to a surveillance society. This could drive a wedge between the anti-statist wing of Harper’s supporters and the totalitarian “more safety, less liberty, and so what” crowd. (Don’t count on it, though: political blood is thicker than water.)

Here are some of the powers the police are about to acquire:

Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and an outspoken critic of the law, said he’s worried about all the information police will be able to obtain without a warrant. “The ability to use that kind of information in a highly sensitive way without any real oversight is very real,” Geist said.

As an example of the new powers, Geist said authorities would be able to use equipment to find the cellphone numbers of people attending a protest, and then be able to ask a cellphone company to disclose personal information on the people linked to those phones. Police could then track their web behaviours and monitor their movements by tracking their cellphones.

Geist said Canadians should also be concerned that the information obtained by police here could be shared with their counterparts around the world.

Yet this same government claims that the long form census is too intrusive.

And here is what our wretched Minister of Public Safety has to say in response to Geist and the rest of us:

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the law will give the tools to police to adequately deal with 21st-century technology, and said anyone opposing the laws favours “the rights of child pornographers and organized crime ahead of the rights of lawabiding citizens.” [emphasis added]

In the House of Commons, he was even less subtle:

He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers,” Vic Toews said of Liberal public safety critic Francis Scarpaleggia during question period on Monday, after Scarpaleggia asked about a bill expected to be tabled Tuesday. [emphasis added]

Since Hitler comparisons are all the rage these days in Conservative ranks, let me simply note that those opposing the abolition of the gun registry (among whom I do not count myself, by the way) are softer Nazis by far than the Big Brother, torture-loving knuckle-draggers who are presently in charge of our country. What’s next—arson in the Centre Block?

[H/t and h/t]

UPDATE: The filibuster worked, the Cons backed down, the Official Languages Committee will remain open to public scrutiny—for now.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on February 13, 2012 4:00 PM.

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