Harper government abandons Internet surveillance bill

Facing mounting opposition from the public, the federal government yesterday announced that it will no longer support the controversial Bill C-30, called the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act but also known as the online surveillance or warrantless wiretapping bill.

The bill would have compelled Internet service providers to allow police, intelligence authorities and Competition Bureau officers to intercept and track online communications as well as obtain subscriber information including name, address, phone number, email address and Internet Protocol address, without a warrant. However, civil liberty advocates and even  the country’s privacy commissioner strongly lobbied against the bill, saying it violated Canadian’s rights. Behind closed doors telecom carriers, who would have had to spend millions upgrading their core network equipment to allow interception, also told the government there were many unanswered questions about who would pay for their costs.

“We’ve listened to the concerns of Canadians who have been very clear on this and responding to that,” said Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson in a statement to reporters on Monday.

“We will not be proceeding with Bill C-30 and any attempts that we will continue to have to modernize the Criminal Code will not contain measures in C-30, including the warrantless mandatory disclosure of basic subscriber information or requirement for telecommunications service providers to build intercept capability within their systems,” he said

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The government last year presented the bill to the public with Public Safety Minister Vic Toews presenting it as a necessary tool to combat child pornography.

His comments to a Liberal critic in the House of Commons stating that “he can either stand with us or stand with the child pornographers,” caused a public backlash.

Yesterday, opponents of the bill expressed gladness that it was finally abandoned.

Charmaine Borg, NDP critic, said it was a great victory and signified a move forward.

Michael Geist, the chair of Internet and E-commerce law at the University Ottawa said Bill C-30 was a “badly marketed, bad policy” which left the government with little choice but to kill it.

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