Tuesday, February 14, 2012

If I have nothing to hide, I have nothing to fear

toewsThe response to Vic Toews’ latest inane (insane?) ramblings has been interesting. His stupid (What else could you call it?) comment in the House of Commons that people people “can either stand with us or with the child pornographers” is really beyond the pale. This was his reasoned response to a very legitimate concern that the lawful access bill his government is aggressively pushing forward is an infringement on privacy rights, and that police agencies should not be able to breach a Canadian’s privacy without, at the very least, having to show just cause and obtaining a warrant to do so.

Strong Conservative supporters in the media are calling Toews out on his latest brain fart, and the Tory blogosphere is pretty much silent (a sure indication that  the “Harper Government” has once again done something dumb/illegal/unethical).

But, to be sure, there are still those who justify such an intrusion with the timeworn observation that if I have nothing to hide I have nothing to fear.

It has taken generations for ‘civilised society’ to enact laws that ensured a modicum of privacy to Canadians as they go about their business. Often those laws were opposed by the police and some lawmakers as they were felt to limit the state’s ability to maintain good order and discipline. But the people prevailed and, little by little, the state adapted and the police learned that they could not simply barge into our homes without cause, or listen in on our telephone calls, or read our mail without judicial oversight and the provision of a warrant.

Now this government is on an aggressive campaign to reverse some of those hard-won rights, claiming the moral high ground that this is needed to protect society from “child pornographers” among others, and further, if you oppose this bill, you are no better than a child pornographer yourself (or a terrorist, or soft on crime, or any one of the other dismissive terms this government uses to disparage those who don’t agree with their dystopian view of the world).

Rights are fragile things. They are very difficult to establish yet remarkably easy to take away by legislators in the name of law and order, or more recently, terrorist threats (real or imagined). And when it’s an incremental erosion as we’ve seen in the west since 9/11 you might not even notice it until it’s too late and that airport screener is fondling your “package”, or your computer is being seized because you accessed a web site that does not meet the moral standards of the government of the day.

It was Ronald Regan who said, “Protecting the rights of even the least individual among us is basically the only excuse the government has for even existing.” This government would be well served to acknowledge that as truth.

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