THIS week, the federal Conservatives moved in a direction Canadians have yet to see them go - backwards.
The government announced it would kill its much-reviled Bill C-30, better known as the Internet surveillance bill. Had it passed, the bill would have forced Internet service providers to turn over information to police and allow them to snoop on electronic communications without getting a warrant.
The bill prompted outrage, and rightly so, from the federal and provincial privacy commissioners, civil liberties advocates and a burgeoning group of online activists.
It's hard to accept Justice Minister Nicholson's claim that government listened to the criticisms Canadians had of the bill and decided to change course. Other recent decisions by the Conservatives have prompted equal or greater public vitriol but the government has stuck to its guns. Elimination of the long-form census and removing federal Fisheries Act protections with an omnibus budget bill were met with almost universal revulsion, yet the Conservatives would not blink.
It's more likely that Nicholson et al finally foresaw what even casual Charter nerds were screaming: that this law would be struck down at its first court challenge and every one after.
If public opposition really did make the difference in this rare instance, big kudos are owed to the Internet activists and privacy advocates who kept the issue front and centre. They might have saved us from a fundamental change in the relationship between our government and the people it serves - one with snooping where privacy used to be.
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