BC FIPA has weighed in on the side of privacy in the debate over the implementation of the American Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) in this country.
In our submission to a consultation by the federal Ministry of Finance on the deal signed last month between Canada and the US, we highlighted the damage this would do to privacy rights not just for Americans living in Canada, but also for ‘snowbirds’ and other Canadians who might have a US address or phone number on file with their Canadian financial institution.
Under the agreement, ‘Canadian financial institutions’ will be required to run an electronic scan of their clients’ accounts, looking for American addresses or phone numbers in the contact information. This could result in Canadian snowbirds and others having their financial information identified for sending to Ottawa, and then on to the Internal Revenue Service in Washington DC.
We are not the only ones concerned about this issue.
Internal e mails we received through freedom of information shows that bureaucrats at the BC regulator of financial institutions (FICOM) were of the view that credit unions in the province “…could be left in a tough spot to comply with the US/Canada agreement and meeting privacy rules.”
Our submission deals with some of the constitutional problems involved with implementing the agreement, quoting a letter to the Ministry from Canada’s leading constitutional scholar, former law dean Peter Hogg.
We also set out some of the issues related to federal and provincial privacy laws covering the public and private sectors; the federal government acting alone will not be able to amend these laws to let the implementation proceed.
We will have more to say on this issue if/when the federal government brings in legislation to implement the Intergovernmental Agreement.