Anyone who is a fan of George Orwell’s vision of society in his novel 1984 is going to love this, but the rest of us have good reason to be afraid — very afraid — because the federal government is contemplating sweeping changes to Canadian privacy laws that would open the door to widespread surveillance

of our online activities by police and spy agencies.

It’s hard to believe this kind of legislation is being contemplated in a country considered to be one of the shining lights of the free world. The Department of Justice and Industry Canada say the proposed legislation, which will be introduced in Parliament late this year or early next, is needed to fight terrorism and other forms of criminal behaviour. If it is passed into law, it will for example require Internet service providers and telcos to reconfigure their networks to facilitate government eavesdropping and data-retention orders.

Not surprisingly, the Chrétien government has kept pretty quiet about its plans to give authorities the right to nose around in our private lives. What is surprising, however, is that Canada’s privacy watchdogs have also remained mum on the issue.

George Radwanski, Privacy Commissioner of Canada, declined to be interviewed. “”We’re preparing a response,”” said Anne-Marie Hayden, director of media relations for the commissioner. “”We have nothing further to say at this time.””

Ann Cavoukian, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, was similarly not available for comment.

If this kind of legislation does not pique the interest of privacy watchdogs, then perhaps Canada is taking its first steps toward becoming a police cyber state.

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