Vic Toews, the man who launched a million twits.

Is it not wonderful? Where else but in North America could an obscure law and order kind of guy like Vic Toews become famous on Twitter. He might not be a social person but he has made many new friends this past week on the world-wide web’s social network. And now maybe we can all pronounce his name. (Call him ‘tays’ not ‘toes.’)

It seems that the dour, aging lawyer from Manitoba has ventured into the realm of the Internet on behalf of Canada’s ubiquitous Public Safety Department. The Internet is dangerous ground for ideologues. All he was trying to do was ram another law and order act through parliament to give police easy access, without a warrant, to the Internet activities of people of interest who might be using the Internet for illicit purposes.

It is not that the act is all that draconian. It demands more from the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) than they should really be expected to provide. Yet that is not what caused the ruckus. It was the mistake Toews made in the House of Commons when becoming frustrated with opposition demands, he said, people “can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.” That was a silly thing to say. It was the remark that launched a million twits.

What Toews should have done was equate the situation to that of ‘hot pursuit.’ If the police are trying to apprehend a person distributing child pornography on the fly, so to speak, they might be allowed to seek their warrant after the fact.

But, in a civil society, that respects the rights of individuals, a judge’s warrant for such intrusion should be a basic requirement. And people have a right to know if the police are snooping on their e-mails and Internet downloads.

In our system of justice, it is important to have the judiciary keep a rein on the police. Most judges would be loath to allow the police to have such broad fishing rights to demand information from Internet providers. And it would not work that well anyway.

Our ISP, for example, might be able to tell what addresses we seek out on the web but since the server for this blog is in New Jersey and all our e-mails are based in California, there would be serious gaps in the surveillance.

We carry no brief for those who choose to be anonymous on the Internet. By closing comments on this blog, we ask that comments come by e-mail and e-mails from people who choose not to tell us their name are automatically deleted.  Nor would we ever support a protestor who hides their face. Our freedom allows you to show your face without threat of reprisal.

Vic Toews is trying to defend a flawed law. It is not defensible. It has to be fixed.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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