The parents of three high-profile bullying victims are divided on the government's proposed online crime legislation, with one mother asking the Conservatives to split widely supported provisions from the more controversial surveillance measures and two fathers urging Ottawa to forge ahead despite privacy concerns.
In what Liberal justice critic Sean Casey called the most powerful witness testimony he'd ever heard firsthand, the parents of three teens who died by suicide testified Tuesday before a House committee examining one of the government's most hotly debated bills.
Bill C-13 has been under a microscope since it was tabled last fall, lauded for its amendment criminalizing the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, but criticized as a privacy-infringing omnibus bill that includes unpopular lawful access measures that were unsuccessfully tabled in 2012.
Carol Todd, mother of B.C. teen Amanda Todd, who died after a Dutch man allegedly extorted her with webcam footage, said she supports the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act but is concerned about "unrelated" provisions inserted in the name of Amanda and Rehtaeh Parsons, whose father also testified Tuesday.
"I have one request: If there's any way we can separate these controversial provisions from the law designed to help other Canadians avoid the pain experienced by Rehtaeh and my Amanda, I would support that process," she said. "I don't want my privacy invaded. I don't want young peoples' privacy compromised."
But two men to her right, Allan Hubley, father to Jamie Hubley and an Ottawa city councillor, and Glenford Canning, father to Rehtaeh Parsons, strongly disagreed, saying the government should do whatever it can to equip law enforcement with the tools it needs to combat crime in the Internet age.
"I'm not standing before you today with concerns about what Bill C-13 might mean to privacy," Mr. Canning said. "I'm before you today because we can't have another Rehtaeh Parsons. It seems so out of place to complain about privacy while our children openly terrorize each other to death for 'likes' on Facebook."
Unlike Mr. Canning, who said the bill might have saved his daughter, Mr. Hubley said he's not sure it would have helped prevent the 2011 death of his 15-year-old son. Still, he said he thinks the bill will "help police obtain the evidence needed to punish those among us who prey on our beautiful children."
The two-hour meeting was punctuated by sometimes heated and tearful statements, with NDP MP Robert Chisholm, who represents the Nova Scotia riding where Rehtaeh Parsons lived, saying he is "offended" by any intimation that opposition to Bill C-13 is somehow evidence of being soft on crime.
"This business that somehow anybody that's not 100 per cent for this bill is somehow favouring the perpetrators over the victims is absolute nonsense," said Mr. Chisholm, whose party supports fast-tracking the portion criminalizing the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, or "revenge porn."
Conservative MP Kyle Seeback asked Ms. Todd to detail her privacy concerns. She said she didn't have the bill in front of her, but said some provisions were confusing and seemed out of place.
"We're very confident that virtually every part of this bill is necessary to combat some form of bullying over the Internet," Bob Dechert, parliamentary secretary to Justice Minister Peter MacKay, told The Globe and Mail, signalling the Conservatives have no plans to split the bill.
Ms. Todd told reporters that if the government goes ahead with Bill C-13's controversial provisions – for example, updating wiretapping provisions to cover electronic communications, and shielding telcos from civil liability if they voluntarily disclose information to authorities without a warrant – she would support the legislation as is.
"I want it passed," she said. "I don't want to wait any longer. I think we've waited too long already."