FIPA report calls for rethink of Anti-terrorism Act

FIPA has submitted a paper to the House of Commons Subcommittee on Public Safety and National Security, which is currently reviewing Canada’s Anti-terrorism Act. Entitled “Canada’s Anti-terrorism Act: an unjustified limitation of freedom of information and privacy rights”, the report calls for the rollback of changes wrought by the Act.

In FIPA’s view, the tragic events of September 11 have been used as a pretext for an expansion of police power and surveillance practices heretofore unacceptable to the vast majority of Canadians.

The report states that “The ATA was unnecessary at its conception and remains so today, not only because it is based on the false belief that civil rights must be traded for security, but also because the police powers and surveillance capabilities necessary to fight terrorism already existed before 9/11.”

Download the new FIPA report.

Parliamentary review of Canada’s Anti-terrorism Act begins

The Canadian Parliament’s Subcommittee on Public Safety and National Security began a review of Canada’s Anti-terrorism Act on December 16, 2004.

The Subcommittee will be accepting written submissions and holding public hearings during winter and spring 2005, with a view to tabling a report in the House of Commons in autumn of the same year. The Subcommittee is hoping to hear from as many groups as it can during the upcoming hearings.

A special committee of the Senate is also conducting “a comprehensive review of the provisions and operations of the Anti-terrorism Act.”

The Anti-terrorism Act and other legislation passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks placed far-reaching powers in the hands of police, security intelligence agencies, customs and immigration officials, and other authorities. These new powers were introduced with little public awareness of their impact on civil liberties, privacy, and access to government information.

The Parliamentary review is vital to an informed public debate and assessment of the legislation and its impacts, which critics say has undermined our democratic traditions but done little to make most Canadians safer.

Those interested in appearing before the Committee are invited to submit their request in writing to the Subcommittee Clerk by February 11, 2005. Written submissions may be submitted to the Clerk no later than February 28, 2005.

Information about procedures for making presentations or submitting papers.
Links of Interest

Remarks of the Minister of Justice to the Special Committee of the Senate on the Anti-terrorism Act, February 21, 2005

CANADA’S ANTI-TERRORISM ACT: AN UNJUSTIFIED LIMITATION OF FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AND PRIVACY RIGHTS – Submission to the House of Commons Subcommittee on Public Safety and National Security– BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, March 2005:

SUBMISSION BY ONTARIO INFORMATION AND PRIVACY COMMISSIONER

WAR ON TERRORISM WATCH
This site, developed and hosted by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), shines a light on the growing list of similar measures governments in Canada, the United States, and Europe have taken in the name of the “war on terrorism.” It aims to encourage informed debate and discussion by providing the latest information and analysis available

PRIVATE NO MORE
Chris Cobb
Ottawa Citizen
December 16, 2004
Terrorism and technology are exacting a high price from Canadians, undermining privacy and eroding civil liberties to a degree that most of us don’t realize. Few Canadians understand the degree to which our most personal information is now readily available to the FBI, CIA and other U.S. authorities – not to mention our own law enforcement equivalents.
Worse, say critics, federal security legislation and cross-border agreements rushed through with little debate or public discussion have undermined our democratic traditions but done little to make most Canadians safer.

Read the full article

Patriot Act poses greater risks than province states, says BC’s Information and Privacy Commissioner

Lindsay Kines and Jeff Rud
Times Colonist

The USA Patriot Act poses a greater risk to Canadians’ personal information than earlier stated by the B.C. government, the province’s information and privacy commissioner said Friday.

David Loukidelis praised government for toughening B.C.’s privacy law, but said it needs to go further to prevent the FBI from using the Patriot Act to get its hands on British Columbians’ private medical or pharmaceutical information…

Darrell Evans, executive director of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, called for a moratorium on contracting out government work to U.S.-linked companies until the B.C. and Canadian governments act on all 16 of Loukidelis’s recommendations.

“If all of these recommendations are implemented, it will provide an effective barrier to foreign laws,” he said. “But they’re like a piece and they’d all have to be implemented to be effective. Until then, we just don’t think the extra risk should be taken.”

LIST OF THE COMMISSIONER’S RECOMMENDATIONS, showing which have / have not been implemeted by the BC government

Complete Times-Colonist article

Information and Privacy Commissioner’s news release and report (See “What’s New”): http://www.oipcbc.org/

“Is Government Outsourcing a Threat to Privacy?” — FIPA submission to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of BC

Privacy Commissioner of Canada News Release:
The Privacy Commissioner commends the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner for furthering public debate on sharing of personal information about Canadians across borders
Right to Privacy Campaign

FIPA and a growing list of other groups– including some municipalities – are seeking to prevent the BC government from contracting out the administration of government services to foreign-owned corporations when it could violate the privacy rights of Canadian citizens.

Campaign website

Open Letter Urges Premier to Honour Pledge to Provide Stable Funding for Information and Privacy Commissioner

The BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association sent an
open letter today to Premier Gordon Campbell urging him to honor his committment to “open government” by rejecting a Finance Committee recommendation to cut 35 per cent from the budget of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

On December 19th, the Legislature’s Finance Committee recommended drastic cuts to the offices of the Auditor General (15 per cent), Elections B.C. (45 per cent), Ombudsman (35 per cent), Child, Youth and Family Advocate (45 per cent), Police Complaint Commission (30 per cent), and Information and Privacy Commissioner (35 per cent).

FIPA’s letter states, “The relatively small amounts saved by cutting these budgets will mean vastly less government transparency and accountability, and inevitably more inefficiency, waste and improper conduct in public offices.”

“Cuts of this magnitude would completely destroy the government’s ‘New Era’ pledge to be ‘the most open, accountable and democratic government in Canada'”, said Darrell Evans, executive director of FIPA. “The exercise of power without sufficient scrutiny and accountability is a great danger for any government — and the danger is even greater in a province without an effective Official Opposition.”

FIPA is most concerned about possible cutbacks to the office of the
Information and Privacy Commissioner, whose budget of $2.4 million is already bare-bones following cutbacks made in 1998. The open letter points out that further cuts would fly in the face of a written commitment made to FIPA by the Premier to provide adequate funding for the Commissioner’s office.

In April 2001, FIPA sent a written question to then-Opposition Leader Gordon Campbell asking, “Do you favour reducing, keeping stable or increasing the funding for the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s office?” Mr. Campbell’s response was, “Our commitment to open government means providing a stable funding base for the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s office to ensure that office has the resources it needs to discharge its statutory mandate.”

FIPA’s open letter states, “Reducing the budget of the Information and Privacy Commissioner as recommended by the Finance Committee can by no means be interpreted as providing a stable funding base for the office, and there is no question that it will deprive the Commissioner of the resources needed to discharge its statutory mandate…

“We ask that you consider the effect that less scrutiny and accountability could have on government officials, both elected and unelected. What tragedies, what boondoggles, what unfairness and waste will be made more likely in such a situation? We think that you should be hearing warning bells as you consider this committee’s report.”

FIPA is the organization that successfully campaigned to have the freedom of information (FOI) act passed in 1992, and launched the “Campaign for Open Government” to defend the FOI act from the threat of severe budget cuts by the Clark government in1998.

CONTACT: Darrell Evans, (604) 739-9788