Split controversial cyberbullying bill in two, urges privacy czar nominee

The federal nominee for privacy commissioner says the government’s cyberbullying bill should be split in two to allow greater scrutiny of measures that would expand online surveillance.

OTTAWA — The federal nominee for privacy commissioner says the government’s cyberbullying bill should be split in two to allow greater scrutiny of measures that would expand online surveillance.

Justice Department lawyer Daniel Therrien told a House of Commons committee Tuesday there needs to be more transparency on the bill, which has raised the ire of many privacy advocates.

Civil libertarians say the cyberbullying bill will erode Internet privacy and make it easier for government to spy on the activities of law-abiding Canadians.

The legislation would make it illegal to distribute “intimate images” without consent and remove barriers to getting such pictures scrubbed from the Internet.

The bill also updates production orders and warrants to mesh with today’s advanced communications world. In addition, it would give police new tools to track and trace telecommunications to determine their origin or destination.

The cyberbullying bill should be divided “and there should be independent review of privacy interests in the context of electronic investigations,” Therrien told the Commons committee on access to information, privacy and ethics.

“Canadians want to know about why police and security agencies require information. They want to hear this in order to have an informed debate as to the viability and need for this type of legislation.”

The Conservative-dominated committee approved Therrien’s nomination, despite objections from the NDP that the hour-long hearing was far too brief. He was also slated to appear before a Senate committee Tuesday.

Therrien, who has worked for several federal agencies, is assistant deputy attorney general for public safety, defence and immigration at Justice.

He co-led negotiations on privacy principles that govern the sharing of information between Canada and the United States under the new perimeter-security pact.

The NDP has said a parliamentary officer should not be auditing policies that he himself developed — especially when they’re as controversial as the one concerning the Canada-U.S. security deal.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper last month asking him to reconsider Therrien’s appointment.

Therrien told committee members Tuesday he has a passion for human rights and, despite his work on government files, would strive to be impartial.

The privacy commissioner monitors compliance of government agencies and private companies with federal privacy laws, and handles complaints from the public about alleged violations.

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