Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and I congratulate you on being elected chair of this committee.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, committee.
On March 6, 2012 the Speaker ruled the Vikileaks matter closed and found no further reason to investigate. Nevertheless, despite the Speaker's ruling and the procedures of the House, some members of this committee have persisted that I appear.
Indeed, Mr. Chair, your predecessor rightly ruled against the Conservative motion initiating this inquest, but these members showed you and your predecessor the same degree of deference they accorded the Speaker, usurping his and your authority with their own. In doing so they demonstrate disregard for this committee's mandate and the many responsibilities clearly set out in Standing Order 108(3)(h), none of which include the use of House of Commons resources.
Furthermore, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, page 1048, is prescriptive when it comes to the authorities of committees. It states: [Committees] have no independent existence and are not permitted to take action unless they have been authorized/empowered to do so by the House.
The Speaker ruled, the chair ruled, the House of Commons Procedure and Practice ruled. So let me remind everybody that under normal circumstances we would not be here today.
However, I agreed to voluntarily appear for two simple reasons. First is my respect for Parliament, and second is to bring this matter to a close.
I will provide a brief summary about what I did and what motivated me to act. I will then be prepared to answer questions related to the supposed reason for this meeting, my use of House of Commons resources. However, I want to be very clear about a few things. I am Vikileaks30. I, and I alone, am the author of that Vikileaks posting site. I was never ordered nor asked to do it. I never discussed my actions with any member of Parliament, including the interim leader of the Liberal Party. I acted on my own. All information posted was already on the public record, obtained from accessible sources.
Now allow me to recall some of the chronology for the purposes of context. On February 13, 2012 Minister Vic Toews, in addressing his online spy bill, infamously challenged all Canadians to “either stand with us or with the child pornographers.” Like most Canadians I was deeply offended by the minister's aggressive and needlessly polarizing language.
The following day, February 14, 2012, Mr. Toews introduced Bill C-30, but not before changing, seemingly at the last second, the title of the bill to the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act.
I'm not alone in believing that Bill C-30 is a sweeping piece of legislation that will allow the Canadian government to routinely invade the privacy of Canadians by monitoring their activity on the Internet. For many Canadians like me, personal privacy is a fundamental civic and human right. It goes to the very core of our personal dignity and identity.
I was raised in a culture that cherishes freedoms and rights, a people who have, in living memory, learned the hard way what is at risk if we do not stand up for our rights and our freedoms.
Given the haste with which bills are passed under the current government, and given its refusal to consider amendments to its bills, it seemed that this bill was all but passed. I felt compelled to urgently bring public attention to the threat Bill C-30 would pose to our rights and our privacy.
I took an approach that, put simply, argued that if the minister felt strongly that he should know everything about us, perhaps we should know a little more about the man who wants unrestricted access to our information. To make the point further, everything I posted was from publicly available documents. If publicly available information could in its retelling be uncomfortable, imagine what could be done with one's private information.
Indeed, none of the information posted was secret or private. In fact, most of it had already been published in various media. Divorce details, for example, had been reported dozens of times. This was especially the case in 2008 when the minister was rumoured to be soliciting support for a judicial appointment.
The same day the bill was introduced, February 14, 2012, I assembled publicly available affidavits, a list of notable quotes, election overspending court documents, and proactive disclosure data. From my home I set up a Twitter account called Vikileaks with the address @vikileaks30, a direct reference to Bill C-30. I transcribed portions of the affidavits and other documents. From this list of brief quotes I made five postings that evening. The record of these postings will show that these were done in the evening, after work hours.
On February 15, 2012, I quickly and easily cut and pasted a few dozen more postings from my list. I concede that these were done at work. That evening, at home, I created a spreadsheet detailing expenses as well as details from Mr. Toews' election overspending conviction. Again, this was all publicly available information.
On February 16, 2012, I made approximately two dozen postings on Vikileaks.
It was also on that day that I received an email, which I later learned was from the Ottawa Citizen, fishing for my IP address. The next day, February 17, 2012, the Ottawa Citizen published its story on the IP addresses. It was clear that a witch hunt had begun.
Innocent people were needlessly and unfairly accused, including the NDP and a specific employee of the House of Commons. To avoid further harm to them and others, I shut down the account, but not before I made it clear that the wrong people were being targeted.
It was also on that day that the Speaker's office initiated an investigation, although no laws had been broken nor was there any evidence that any policies had been breached. In fact, there are plenty of examples of House of Commons IP addresses being used to edit Wikipedia pages, both to vandalize and to whitewash them. There are also numerous examples of House of Commons resources being used to attack the actions of other members of Parliament, but to my knowledge, the Speaker's office has never investigated those activities.
The irony is not lost on me that the Speaker of the House used his powers to trace my personal IP address and my personal online activity. This is precisely what the online spying bill will do to everybody.
Before I conclude, I want to thank my family, my friends, my lawyer Paul Champ, and the many Canadians who have reached out to me with their support. It has been a very difficult time for me personally, for reasons known and unknown. However, I want to point out again that all of the information I posted was from publicly available documents. Everything I did was perfectly legal. I take full responsibility for my actions.
Ultimately, I hope my experience prompts further awareness of the threats to our personal privacy and the critical importance of defending our freedoms and rights. Bill C-30 is not gone. The reaction of Canadians has forced this government to delay their plans, but the bill is still sitting on the table and will most likely be back. And when that day comes, I urge Canadians to stand up to this government and fight for our collective right to privacy.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.