Terror fight turns to Internet, sparking new free-speech debate

By Steven Chase and Josh Wingrove, The Globe and Mail, 30 October 2014

The Canadian government says it’s looking for a way to stop terror groups and their followers from using the Internet to advance their cause as a debate emerges over how to fight threats to Canada while preserving civil liberties including free speech and privacy.

Justice Minster Peter MacKay said measures could include tools to allow for the removal of websites or Internet posts that support the “proliferation of terrorism” in Canada. (...)

His comments come as Canada’s privacy watchdogs warn changes being planned to boost police powers after last week’s terror attacks “must be measured and proportionate” to preserve Canadian democratic values.

A joint statement from 15 privacy and information commissioners raised concerns that new police powers could infringe on civil liberties and privacy rights.

“We acknowledge that security is essential to maintaining our democratic rights. At the same time, the response to such events must be measured and proportionate, and crafted so as to preserve our democratic values,” the commissioners, including two federal watchdogs, wrote. (...)

The Prime Minister said Canadians shouldn’t presume that security is a threat to their rights.

“While obviously we always recognize the certain risks that exist, I do not think we should start from the assumption that everything our police and security agencies do are somehow a threat to the rights of Canadians. On the contrary, more often than not, security and rights find themselves on the same side of the ledger and Canadians do not have effective rights unless we can ensure their security – and that is what we intend to do,” Mr. Harper said. (...)

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Photo: Sean Kilpatrick, The Canadian Press