Toews steps back from child pornographers comment

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is stepping back from comments he made Monday, sounding a more conciliatory note in the debate over legislation to give police greater powers to get information from internet service providers.

Told Liberal critic he could 'stand with' government or with child pornographers

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is requesting a parliamentary investigation into an anonymous Twitter account leaking alleged details of his divorce following a media report that linked the account's IP address to a Parliament Hill server. (Canadian Press)

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is stepping back from comments he made Monday, sounding a more conciliatory note in the debate over legislation to give police greater powers to get information from internet service providers.

Asked Monday about privacy issues surrounding his new online surveillance bill, C-30, Toews told Liberal public safety critic Francis Scarpaleggia he could "either stand with us or with the child pornographers."

A number of critics have expressed concern about the bill, including Ontario's privacy commissioner.

In an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CBC Radio's The House, Toews said he has given some thought to the comments.

"And I've thought about this very carefully. If fair minded Canadians have come to the conclusion that my comments in that respect that I made in the heat of Parliamentary debate were not appropriate, I'm prepared to accept their judgment," Toews said.

The interview will air Saturday morning.

Twitter account sparks call for investigation

Toews also told Solomon he's sending a letter to Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer to request an investigation into a Twitter account that's being used to post his personal information and is linked to an IP address in the House of Commons.

"Now what bothers me is not so much the content of the attacks against me but that there may be members of Parliament or a caucus that is hiding behind the anonymity of government resources to attack me personally," Toews told Solomon.

The user account on the social networking site Twitter that's being used to post personal information on Toews has been linked to an IP address on Parliament Hill, the Ottawa Citizen reported Thursday night.

An IP address is a unique number that identifies computers in a network, which suggests that someone who works on Parliament Hill may be posting Toews's personal information online.


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No proof but allegations fly

The IP address serves anyone who works on Parliament Hill, including MPs and staff from all parties, non-partisan administrative and research staff, MPs' constituency staff accessing the network remotely and journalists. There is no wireless or public access. 

The newspaper report said employees working off that IP address also visited Paul Simon fan sites and updated Wikipedia articles to give them a pro-NDP bias, leading to a vicious question period Friday in which the Conservatives accused the NDP of being behind the account.

Despite the wide range of people who use the IP address, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird took several opportunities to avoid answering questions, instead alleging the NDP were behind the Vikileaks30 Twitter account.

"Today we learned, Mr. Speaker, that the official NDP opposition have been caught in a nasty, dirty internet trick," Baird said in question period.

"I call on the NDP to stand up, to take responsibility for these dirty tricks, to apologize, Mr. Speaker, and to identify which one over there is responsible."

NDP Whip Chris Charlton demanded Baird retract the allegations. IT staff at the House of Commons confirmed the IP addresses could belong to any member of House administration or any user from any political party, she said, and the Speaker's office is looking into it.

"I would call on the minister to table in this House any evidence to back up his unfounded claims and if he doesn’t have such evidence, I would like him to immediately apologize and withdraw his statements unconditionally," she said.

Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan refused to apologize, referring again to the media report.

Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie told MPs the Speaker's office "is indeed looking into this very serious matter."

Twitter feed set up Tuesday

The Twitter feed was set up on Feb. 14 and has already garnered more than 8,000 followers. The first tweet said it was in response to Toews's bill C-30, which would require internet service providers to turn over some customer information to police without a warrant.

Messages posted on the page include details on topics such as Toews's spending habits and other more personal matters, including his divorce.

Toews has faced pointed and personal criticism for leading the federal charge to pass a controversial online surveillance bill that was tabled in the House of Commons earlier this week.

On Thursday, the popular social media site featured a deluge of tweets labelled #TellVicEverything.

"I spend a lot more work hours than I should on Twitter — but you probably already knew that," one user tweeted.

With files from The Canadian Press