Privacy, civil liberties groups issue statement of principles on Canada-U.S. perimeter agreement

Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver – In advance of today’s anticipated Canada-U.S. border deal signing in Washington, D.C., FIPA and seven other Canadian civil liberties groups have released a 12-point statement of principles they hope will help guide public and parliamentary debate in the months to come.

The joint statement of principles was developed over the past few months and represents basic concerns with the trade-off expected behind the anticipated deal.

“Past efforts to harmonize security measures across the border in an effort to ease the flow of goods and trade have suffered from a large democratic deficit and excessive influence from parties with a direct financial interest in continued or improved access to the U.S. market,” says the statement.

“Not one initiative or recommendation in the border action plan should be implemented or substantially negotiated with the United States prior to an extended public and parliamentary debate in Canada.”

LINK to full news release, Statement of Principles and contact information for the signing groups click here.

Canadian Government misrepresents performance on Open Government to U.S. State Department

Joint FIPA-Newspapers Canada Letter To Secretary Clinton
Corrects the Record

Newspapers Canada and the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association have joined forces to correct the federal government’s claims about their performance on transparency and Access to Information made in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The joint letter to Clinton updates and adds information missing from a letter sent by Foreign Minister John Baird to Clinton on September 19, 2011.

Baird’s letter is an application to join an international group
called the Open Government Partnership, which is devoted to
transparency and accountability.

“It is shameful to have to write to a foreign government about how badly our government has performed, but that performance is an even bigger shame,” said Newspapers Canada President John Hinds. “The true state of affairs really had to be revealed.”

The Foreign Minister’s letter boasts of Canada having had an Access to nformation law for almost thirty years, but fails to mention that the Act is woefully out of date and that efforts to reform it have been resisted for many years.

Other points Minister Baird forgot to mention include:

  • The Conservative government has failed to implement seven of its eight promises to improve access to information.
  • The Conservative government has included a number of Crown Corporations and other bodies under the Act, but has since created multi-billion dollar organizations like P3 Canada which operate outside access to information laws.
  • The government seems content with having ministers’ offices and the people who work in them outside the Access to Information Act.
  • Parliamentary committees, successive Information Commissioners and an array of transparency experts have stated that the federal ATI system is broken and this country has fallen behind international standards for openness.

The joint letter to Secretary Clinton recommends that Canada be helped and given guidance by taking part in the “New Country Guidance process”.

“We hope that some good may come of this,” said FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek. “Perhaps international embarrassment will do what years of studies, reports and critiques have failed to do, which is to force the government to bring the ATI system into the 21st century.”

Secret trade agreement could trump Canadian privacy and copyright laws

The Canadian government is secretly negotiating an international trade agreement which could broaden the power of law enforcement officials to invade your privacy, snoop into the content on your personal electronic devices and make a lot more copied content illegal.

Led by the United States, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) would revamp copyright laws and impose strict regulations on Internet service providers, forcing them to hand over customer information without a court order.

FIPA letter to Prime Minister

News coverage

Let’s stand up to Big Brother” – The Vancouver Province
Gov’t wants into your laptop” – The Vancouver Province
Copyright deal could toughen rules governing info on iPods, computers” – The Ottawa Citizen

Read the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) for access to an excellent submission on ACTA (See “CIPPIC offers DFAIT Comments on ACTA Discussions”, April 30, 2008)

See Prof. Michael Geist’s blog for lots more information on this issue (See ” U.S. Report Says ACTA Deal Gaining Steam”, May 29, 2008 and “The ACTA Leak”, Friday May 23, 2008)

FIPA joins campaign against international biometric identification

FIPA has joined with more than 30 other civil liberties groups in sending an open letter to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) asking it to cease development of a biometric national database standard for biometric passports.

Privacy International, which organized the letter, is worried that international agreement on such a standard will pressure governments to jump aboard the worldwide surveillance bandwagon and lead to an increase in the sharing of personal information across borders, including such data as face-scans and fingerprints. It could also pressure countries to adopt national ID systems that are very unpopular with citizens in most democracies.

Privacy International is continuing to accept endorsements for what is hoped will be a powerful international movement.

For background information on the initiative and the problems with biometric passports, see:

News coverage
Campaigners fight biometric passports
Civil liberties groups unite for RFID protest