Look past the shiny objects

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Look, there’s your privacy, gone!


There is certainly no shortage of things to write about this month. I could write some more about the water situation in Stellarton, but what would be the point? Mayor Joe Gennoe has already said that the town will not be compensating taxpayers for the inconvenience of a now five-week-old boil order. He may not be worried about re-election, but the rest of the council might just think about if they will be running again. Stellarton residents are pretty sick of this.

I could write about Rob Ford. My biggest issue with him is the fact that he, single-handedly, has lowered the bar for holding public office so far that it could now be considered a limbo dance. At least our area mayors are not on drunken binges making fools of themselves.

Perhaps a column about Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his band of merry men, stealing from us in the form of payments to senators for false claims, and then lying to everyone about it. I think that story has some more shelf life, so I’ll let that one simmer.

All of these things have been eating up media time and taking our attention from things that we really should be paying attention to. In six months none of those things are going to matter a whole bunch. But Bill C-13 will. It will be passed and you will not have seen it coming. This month I will turn my attention the bill that Minister of Justice Peter MacKay introduced last week, during national Bullying Awareness Week, known as the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, and why you should be concerned.

This tough new law, supposedly aimed at cyberbullying, is actually aimed at the Conservative government’s broader approach to increasing police investigative powers. The proposed law, to crack down on Internet bullying involving the posting of nude photos, in true Conservative omnibus-style, features new police tools for fighting terrorism, organized crime, fraud, theft of cable and Internet services, and hate propaganda. Far more than the call for reform to laws to address cyber-bullying, this bill, 53 pages of it, will also allow investigators to access your personal information without a warrant.

Two things come to mind here for me. One, this is a very sleazy tactic. With the introduction of this bill, tied to the memory of Rehtaeh Parsons, the Conservatives will be able to say that anyone who questions this legislation must be on the side of the evil bullies who cause our children distress. After all, this bill is reflective of “the government’s commitment to ensuring that our children are safe from online predators and from online exploitation,” according to MacKay.  How clever! If you are not for the new law, then you must be for online cyberbullying, right? The tactic isn’t new to this Conservative group. But here, it is particularly shameless. How disturbing is it that this bill uses a real, raw, social issue with cyber bullying to further the Conservatives’ ‘tough on crime’ agenda, to do with everything from terrorism to stealing cable? It is disgusting to me.

This leads me to my second point. Why, if this bill is truly about protecting our children, why 53 pages of legislation regarding cable stealing and terrorism? I’ll tell you why. There is a much larger agenda on the books with the contents of this bill.

Under the guise of anti-cyberbullying measures, the Conservatives are hoping to push through a number of laws that have everything to do with law enforcement but not much to do with cyberbullying at all. The new pieces of legislation in this latest Conservative Omnibus Bill include giving police easier access to the metadata that Internet service providers and phone companies keep on your every call and every email. In case you don’t know, metadata is information about the contents of digital communications. This information could include who you are communicating with, what you communicate about, and when you do the communicating, whether it is on your cellphone, or your computer, in a call, text or email. If Bill C-13 passes, police investigators will have the power to go to your cell and Internet providers to obtain your metadata, without a warrant. Your private information will be at the hands of the police whenever they want it, for whatever reason, even a hunch.

This is what you should be paying attention to instead of Gennoe, Ford, or Harper and his senators. Like I said, in six months’ time the shiny things that have been eating up the media spotlight will be a memory. But your personal rights to the expectation of privacy will be too, unless you pay attention to this bill and what it means to you, and your children.


Marlene Wells is a born and bred political junky, wife and mother who calls Pictou County home. Follow Marlene on Twitter: MarleneWells 

Organizations: Conservatives

Geographic location: Stellarton, Pictou County

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