December 6, 2016 7:56 am
Updated: December 6, 2016 12:32 pm

Watchdogs to urge Ottawa to respect privacy in upcoming security policy

WATCH ABOVE: Not the time to expand state powers, reduce individuals ones, says privacy commissioner

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OTTAWA – Privacy commissioners from across the country will tell the Trudeau government today to make respect for personal information a cornerstone of its revamped national security policy.

Federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien and all of his provincial and territorial counterparts are signing a joint submission to the government’s security review.

Therrien and privacy czars from two provinces – Ontario’s Brian Beamish and Jean Charter of Quebec – will appear in Ottawa today to discuss the submission.

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Therrien’s office says it will address key issues including information sharing, encryption and the collection and use of metadata by national security agencies and law enforcement.

READ MORE: CSIS using Bill C-51 powers to collect intel on Canadians held in foreign prisons

In October, Therrien told a House of Commons committee it is crucial that there be more transparency about national security so that Canadians can better understand the issues.

Therrien said while there are obviously limits to transparency when national security is at stake, more can and should be done.

The government has requested public feedback on issues ranging from sharing information and preventing attacks to conducting surveillance and ensuring intelligence agencies are accountable.

In last year’s election campaign, the Liberals promised to repeal “problematic elements” of omnibus security legislation, known as C-51, ushered in by the previous Conservative government.

The bill gave the Canadian Security Intelligence Service explicit powers to disrupt terrorist threats, not just gather information about them.

The legislation also created a new offence of promoting the commission of terrorist offences and broadened the government’s no-fly list powers.

READ MORE: Does Bill C-51 violate your privacy? Watchdog says new law ‘not properly evaluated’

In addition, it expanded the exchange of federally held information about activity that “undermines the security of Canada.” Therrien has already said the government hasn’t done enough to protect the privacy of “law-abiding Canadians” from the new information-sharing powers.

The Trudeau government has committed to ensure all CSIS warrants respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to preserve legitimate protest and advocacy and to define terrorist propaganda more clearly.

The Liberals say they say will do a better job of balancing collective security with rights and freedoms.

Just last month a Federal Court judge ruled that CSIS violated the law by keeping potentially revealing electronic data over a 10-year period about people who were not targets of investigation.

CSIS processed the data beginning in 2006 through its Operational Data Analysis Centre to produce intelligence that can reveal specific details about individuals.

READ MORE: Why the former CSIS director says the Liberals shouldn’t touch Bill C-51

The improperly retained material was metadata – information associated with a communication, such as a telephone number or email address, but not the message itself.

It is believed to have included data trails related to friends or family members who knew targets of surveillance but were not themselves under investigation.

 

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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