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Opposition demands apology from Toews

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OTTAWA -- The federal NDP is demanding Public Safety Minister Vic Toews apologize for comments he made about the government's Internet surveillance bill last year now that the bill has been scrapped.

During question period Tuesday, Quebec MP Charmaine Borg, the NDP critic for digital issues, said the decision to scrap Bill C-30 was a victory for all who opposed the government spying on their Internet use. She then wondered if Toews would apologize for suggesting MPs who criticized the bill last year were supporting pedophiles.

"The minister of public safety introduced a seriously flawed bill, launched attacks on the opposition for pointing out the bill's failings and refuses to take responsibility for his vile comments," Borg said. "Will the minister of public safety stand now and apologize for the despicable way he treated the critics of the bill and acknowledge that his bill went too far?"

On Feb. 13, 2012, Toews told Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia "He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers," after Scarpaleggia wondered how Canadians could trust the government wouldn't use the powers of C-30 improperly.

Toews' office did not respond when asked what he thought of Borg's apology request. He was in question period, but Justice Minister Rob Nicholson stood to respond to Borg's question instead.

"I appreciate that anything to do with the justice system is always upsetting to members of the Liberal party and the NDP," he said. "I cannot tell the difference between them. When it comes to fighting crime in this country, we are the only ones on the right side of this one."

On Monday, Nicholson announced he was scrapping Bill C-30, the Protecting Children From Internet Predators Act. Any future versions of the bill will not contain "warrantless mandatory disclosure of basic subscriber information, or the requirement for telecommunications service providers to build intercept capabilities within their systems," Nicholson said Monday.

He said the government's decision was responding to the concerns of Canadians.

Backlash to C-30 was swift after Toews introduced it last year, as Canadians of all political stripes felt it was far too invasive and gave the government the ability to spy on what individual Canadians were doing on the Internet without needing to get a warrant.

The backlash sparked one Liberal staffer to create an anonymous Twitter account, in which he unveiled details of Toews' divorce proceedings. The staffer was eventually identified and fired by the Liberals. He was subsequently rehired months later.

Borg said she didn't really expect to hear an apology from Toews, and noted he isn't even speaking at all about this now.

Although Toews introduced Bill C-30 last year, it was Nicholson who announced it was being scrapped and Nicholson who took questions about it Tuesday.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 13, 2013 A8

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