Thursday, February 23, 2012

The David Boyle / Vic Toews letters

Re: Stop Online Spying


Thank you for contacting my office regarding Bill C-30, the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act.

Canada's laws currently do not adequately protect Canadians from online exploitation and we think there is widespread agreement that this is a problem.

We want to update our laws while striking the right balance between combating crime and protecting privacy.

Let me be very clear: the police will not be able to read emails or view web activity unless they obtain a warrant issued by a judge and we have constructed safeguards to protect the privacy of Canadians, including audits by privacy commissioners.

What's needed most is an open discussion about how to better protect Canadians from online crime. We will therefore send this legislation directly to Parliamentary Committee for a full examination of the best ways to protect Canadians while respecting their privacy.

For your information, I have included some myths and facts below regarding Bill C-30 in its current state.


Vic Toews

Member of Parliament for Provencher

Myth: Lawful Access legislation infringes on the privacy of Canadians.

Fact: Our Government puts a high priority on protecting the privacy of law-abiding Canadians. Current practices of accessing the actual content of communications with a legal authorization will not change.

Myth: Having access to basic subscriber information means that authorities can monitor personal communications and activities.

Fact: This has nothing to do with monitoring emails or web browsing. Basic subscriber information would be limited to a customer’s name, address, telephone number, email address, Internet Protocol (IP) address, and the name of the telecommunications service provider. It absolutely does not include the content of emails, phones calls or online activities.

Myth: This legislation does not benefit average Canadians and only gives authorities more power.

Fact: As a result of technological innovations, criminals and terrorists have found ways to hide their illegal activities. This legislation will keep Canadians safer by putting police on the same footing as those who seek to harm us.

Myth: Basic subscriber information is way beyond “phone book information”.

Fact: The basic subscriber information described in the proposed legislation is the modern day equivalent of information that is in the phone book. Individuals frequently freely share this information online and in many cases it is searchable and quite public.

Myth: Police and telecommunications service providers will now be required to maintain databases with information collected on Canadians.

Fact: This proposed legislation will not require either police or telecommunications service providers to create databases with information collected on Canadians.

Myth: “Warrantless access” to customer information will give police and government unregulated access to our personal information.

Fact: Federal legislation already allows telecommunications service providers to voluntarily release basic subscriber information to authorities without a warrant. This Bill acts as a counterbalance by adding a number of checks and balances which do not exist today, and clearly lists which basic subscriber identifiers authorities can access.


Dear Mr. Toews,

I want to thank you for taking the time to come to me directly with these assertions.

As someone whose college studies in philosophy, logic, and critical reasoning are now something of a distant memory, I admit I can sometimes get a little bit lost in even pedestrian discussions. That is why it is so refreshing to have my opinions gently corrected, clarified, and sorted into neat piles of “Myths” and “Facts” by someone who has demonstrated a superior grasp of these concepts.

I have not actually read the legislation in question, which I understand is something else we both have in common.

I also want to say that I wasn’t in the least bit panicked when your email showed up unsolicited in my private Inbox. To be honest with you, I have no idea how it is that you have my email address… it must be one of those petitions I signed. Well, no matter. I am one of those honest citizens with nothing to hide, so rest assured that in dealings with me you can shine the light of your pineal eye wherever you please.

Had I been a more paranoid sort, I would have taken this earnest attempt to communicate on your part as sinister and Orwellian, rather than as clumsy and affable.

Speaking of Orwell, I seem to recall he wrote a book called 1984, a book which I was required by some previous incarnation of government to read as part of the schooling curriculum.

In that book, a sinister socialist “police state” had replaced the beloved democracies of the Western world. Staples of this culture were constant warfare, sollipsistic manipulation of information, and surveillance of the citizenry by mad oligarchical collectivists bent on controlling the very thoughts of the people.

When I read the book, I was spiritually sick to my stomach for months. I was 14 years old at the time. I knew that I had been given a glimpse of a dark world as a warning of what could come to pass if we were not vigilant in safeguarding our civil liberties; a world in which God, whatever that is, had truly died, and that nothing, no beauty or light, would ever be allowed to rise to take His or its place.

When I look at the rise of the new Canadian Conservatism, I see a disturbing agenda at work to push us incrementally in that direction. I see this agenda manifest in the building of new jails when there are no convicts to fill them, the granting to yourselves of broad new surveillance powers, the flexing of muscle to keep scientists from discussing their findings with the media and with the public, and also the continual attempts to engage the public in propagandist rhetoric. Mr Toews, perhaps you can understand why there is some segment of the population that is somewhat concerned by such things, and why offense was taken at your attempt to push through new surveillance powers while engaging in propagandist rhetoric.

As you seem concerned by dissent and opposition to this agenda, I believe I may have a solution. Remove Orwell immediately from the high school curriculum across the country, round up all copies of the book, and have a big bonfire on Parliament Hill for Canada Day. Children can cheer and roast marshmallows while painting little red Canadian flags on their faces. Within but one generation, all memory of dissent will have perished in the flames of history, and then you can proceed with your sinister agenda, whatever it might be.


David Boyle


  1. Sadly for both of you, burning just one book will hardly be enough. Best get rid of all of them, as Ray Bradbury suggested in "Fahrenheit 451"--the book on which the movie was based, and which it self must obviously join Orwell on the bonfire.

    While you're at it, H.G. Wells, Charles Dickens, Bertrand Russell, Kafka, Solzhenitsin, etc. tend to undermine the confidence of hoi polloi in blind obedience to their masters. I could think of a good many more...except that your party's wisdom persuades me there's no good in thinking, let alone speaking out, since that road only leads to surveillance, a security certificate, indefinite detention without trial, then a carefully-orchestrated show trial and a long spell in one of your shiny new prisons.

    Foolhardy but not brave enough for that,

  2. Awesome from start to finish, Daver. Of all people he shoots you an email from nowhere. Love, love, love it