The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights continues its study later today on Bill C-13, the cyber-bullying/lawful access bill that has already passed the House of Commons and seems certain to clear the Senate shortly. I appeared before the committee last week, but one person who will not appear is Carol Todd, the mother of cyber-bullying victim Amanda Todd. Ms. Todd wrote to me yesterday to express her dismay at the committee process with Conservative Senators mischaracterizing her views and the committee declining to offer her an invitation to appear, likely due to her criticisms of the privacy-related provisions in the bill.
Ms. Todd did appear before the House of Commons committee studying Bill C-13, telling Members of Parliament:
“While I applaud the efforts of all of you in crafting the extortion, revenge, porn, and cyberbullying sections of Bill C-13, I am concerned about some of the other unrelated provisions that have been added to the bill in the name of Amanda, Rehtaeh, and all of the children lost to cyberbullying attacks.
I don’t want to see our children victimized again by losing privacy rights. I am troubled by some of these provisions condoning the sharing of the privacy information of Canadians without proper legal process. We are Canadians with strong civil rights and values. A warrant should be required before any Canadian’s personal information is turned over to anyone, including government authorities. We should also be holding our telecommunication companies and Internet providers responsible for mishandling our private and personal information. We should not have to choose between our privacy and our safety.
We should not have to sacrifice our children’s privacy rights to make them safe from cyberbullying, sextortion and revenge pornography.”
The comments generated considerable media attention as it pointed to the divide even among cyberbullying victims about legislation that the lumps together provisions designed to address cyberbullying with lawful access rules with serious implications for the privacy of Canadians.
Since her testimony, the government has tried to downplay her concerns. Justice Minister Peter MacKay told the committee that he met with Ms. Todd and that “she came away with a much better sense of comfort and confidence in what the government was attempting to do.” When I raised Ms. Todd’s views during my Senate appearance, Senator Denise Batters responded that she had since “clarified her views on the bill.”
Yet the reality is that Ms. Todd is more troubled than ever with the government’s approach. In October, she wrote to me hours after the bill passed the House of Commons:
“I was stunned at how the government is going to push it forward considering the discussion and what was said at the hearings last spring.”
As the Senate hearings continue, she has now expressed surprise and disappointment that she has been excluded from the process, noting that the government does not want her voice to be included and asking “what happened to democracy?”
What happened is that the government no longer wants to hear from one of the country’s most prominent voices on cyberbullying given her concerns that “we should not have to choose between our privacy and our safety.”