By Brian Jackson

It’s hard to imagine what points Public Safety Minister Vic Toews thinks he is scoring when he describes those concerned about the implications of increased government Internet surveillance as supporting child pornographers.

The Conservative MP made the statement in parliament yesterday while defending the government’s planned legislation that will require Internet service providers to hand over customer information to police without a warrant. Apparently the debate, in Toews own words, is reduced to “stand with us or with the child pornographers.”

Such stark extremes haven’t been presented to the public since George W. Bush earnestly told the world that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” shortly following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. (Toews’ quote has already been added to the “with us or against us” Wikipedia entry.) Not only does the approach harken back to what is now a passé neo-conservative mindset, but it is actually a logical fallacy. Toews is arguing that child pornographers wouldn’t support the government’s proposed “lawful access” bill because it could lead to getting thrown in jail. Therefore, his broken logic goes, all those who oppose the lawful access bill must support child pornographers.

Brian Jackson, Associate Editor,
Brian Jackson, Associate Editor,

But Toews has forgotten about one group of people who might be both against lawful access legislation tabled today in parliament, and also be against child pornographers: people who value freedom. Like Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian.

The commissioner held an entire symposium at the end of January to raise concerns about lawful access legislation. She warned that it could lead to a system of “surveillance by design” where law-abiding citizens are open to being tracked by government and law enforcement officials. Cavoukian, in blogging for, has linked privacy to the freedom of choice and control over one’s own personal information.

If the “lawful access” legislation becomes law, then Internet service providers will be obligated to track the online activities of customers and turn over the information to police when it’s requested – the person that information belongs to will not be informed. Bill C-30 demands mandatory disclosure of name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, IP address, and local service provider without a warrant being presented.

That certainly sounds like a loss of control, and therefore an intrusion upon freedom.

For smaller ISPs, the cost burden and logistics of maintaining such a database on their customers will be painful. It’s likely that rates customers pay to access the Internet will be raised so that ISPs can afford to track their activities properly. For small businesses giving employees Internet access, they will now have more incentive to worry about what content their staff might stumble upon online since legal ramifications could result. Businesses will probably put more online censors in place and more closely control and monitor employee Web surfing.

Toews’ implication that lawful access legislation will help lock up pedophiles is questionable. After announcing 60 arrests in a raid earlier this month, Ontario police revealed they had linked 9,000 IP addresses to child pornography, found in every major centre in Ontario. It seems the problem is not collecting more information on the perpetrators, but having the police resources dedicated to following through on making arrests.

Clearly there are many more nuanced arguments against lawful access legislation than Toews’ false dichotomy of absolutes suggests. But if the Minister wants to argue using logical fallacies, I can play that game too.

Since lawful access will infringe of Canadians’ privacy, and privacy is a type of freedom, then those in support of lawful access are against freedom. That makes Vic Toews against freedom.


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  • D

    This begs the question: why do they want this so badly that they keep renaming it over and over and pushing it anew?

  • Brent

    Typical government always trying to take total control of it’s citizens,it is a citizens job to hold their government in check as no government has the ability to keep it’s hands out of our pockets or their noses out of our private lives.Our job is to fight this law and others like ACTA and other that try to choke our freedoms for once lost those freedoms will cost lives to get back.

  • Mike

    Yes Brian, Toews’ argument of absolute we versus they is at least silly.
    This is the kind of draconian measure feudal lords could only dream of.

  • Jan Kraus

    Since, I signed a petition against this law at should I sue Brian Toews for defamation since he has publically (although indirectly) called me a child molester or child molestation supporter?

  • joe common

    sick foks like Vic Toews have a home with their other cowardly power freaks who want to live like parasites on populations they seek to enslave with any excuse or rationale at any price. and then they call themselves heroes for “saving” people from their imaginary terrorists and violators etc.

    but they wont write laws to protect populations against usurpers like themselves. nope. those diviates just cant get along with a variety of people. they have a personality deficit they need to fill. they see the world as a threat. they live in fear. they are cowards.

  • David

    Thanks for bringing this issue to light. This is definitely and attack on our freedoms and although it may have come from a genuine concern for capturing pedophiles, I believe he has not considered the far-reaching effects that this will have in paving the way to the complete invasion of the privacy of Canadian citizens. One must always consider how a law can be abused and then ensure that it can not be. It sounds like the police service already has its hands full using the existing warrant process, we don’t need to open loop holes that simply invade our privacy. Then there’s the obvious burden it will put on ISPs, increasing our cost and making it even harder for new startups to compete.

  • Dave Blom

    The website with the petition that gets sent to your MP is at
    I see from the other comments that this article appeared in Feb 2012. A date (when the article was written) up near the title of the blog post would be useful.