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The Globe and Mail

Conservatives take heavy fire over 'snoop and spy' legislation

New Democratic Party MP Charlie Angus speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Feb. 14, 2012.

CHRIS WATTIE/Chris Wattie/Reuters

Finger-pointing was rife in the Commons Tuesday, with opposition MPs charging that Conservative legislation threatens to turn Canada into a Big Brother-like society.

The government maintains its online-surveillance bill merely brings the law into the 21st century and strikes the right balance between giving police new tools and protecting privacy rights. The Liberals and NDP, however, say it turns Canada into a surveillance society and is an affront to civil liberties.

"The government has declared open season on average Canadians and the minister needs to come clean with Canadians on why he wants to snoop and spy on them," NDP MP Charlie Angus said Tuesday during Question Period.

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The bill is supported by police forces, but various federal and provincial privacy commissioners have raised concerns.

"I would ask the Prime Minister if he considers these people to be like Hitler. Does he consider these people to be the friends of child pornographers? Does he consider them to be the friends of pedophiles?" Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae charged.

In response, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative caucus asked the opposition to read the bill carefully.

"The changes in the lawful access legislation have not only been sought by police to protect our young people from pedophiles, but they have in fact been supported by every single provincial government, every single attorney general, including those who are Liberal," Mr. Harper fired back.

When a Liberal MP asked Monday about the latest version, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said he could either stand with the government or with child pornographers prowling online.

Seeking to assuage concerns, Mr. Toews said Tuesday the legislation requires a "judicially authorized warrant."

"There is nothing in the bill that would allow police to snoop on an individual's private conversations or even to follow a person's activities on the web," he maintained.

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