RightsWatch Conference 2013


Each year the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s RightsWatch Conference brings together a wide variety of stakeholders and community members, including academics, public officials, lawyers, students and interested members of the public for an intimate conference.  This year CCLA is pleased to partner with Ryerson University’s Office of the Vice President, Research and Innovation, the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre, and the Ryerson Law Research Centre to present Civil Liberties and Democracy in the Digital Age: Privacy, Media and Free Expression. There will be a series of discussions on the impact that new technologies and modes of communication have on legal and societal understandings of privacy, freedom of expression and the media. We are planning panels on surveillance, anonymity and expression in ‘public’ space, freedom of the press and the citizen journalist, the application of constitutional guarantees of privacy to new communications technologies, access to information and ‘open’ government, and privacy and expression in the private sector.

Unfortunately the Friday evening keynote and reception is SOLD OUT but registration is still available for the full-day of substantive panels on Saturday, September 21, 2013.

Click here to see our Conference Program and find out what great panels, speakers and moderators we have on tap.

Do you care about privacy, freedom of expression, and technology? Have research or an innovative project you’d like to showcase? Apply to share your initiatives or volunteer at the RightsWatch Conference this September!

The RightsWatch conference takes its name and inspiration from the CCLA/PBSC RightsWatch Blog.  To learn more about the RightsWatch Blog, and CCLA’s project partnership with Pro Bono Students Canada, visit ccla.org/events/rightswatch/.


Friday September 20, evening keynote and reception **SOLD OUT!**

Saturday September 21, all-day conference, full program below **Registration still available!**


Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University

55 Dundas St W, Toronto, Ontario M5G 2C5

Get Directions

Registration details

Early Bird Registration – available until August 1st

  • General Public, $50.00
  • Students & Unwaged, $10.00

Normal Registration – Register now! Please note registration is available for the Saturday full-day conference ONLY. The Friday evening keynote is sold out.

  • General Public, $75.00
  • CCLA Members, $25.00
  • Students & Unwaged, $20.00
  • CCLA Student Members, $0.00

Program of Activities

Friday, September 20, 2013

5:00                   Registration opens; Privacy/expression fair

6:00                   Welcome – Sukanya Pillay, Interim General Counsel, CCLA, and TBD, Ryerson University

Conference Keynote Discussion

William Binney, Former intelligence official with the United States National Security Agency
Ben Wizner, Director of ACLU’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project
Moderator: Sukanya Pillay, Interim General Counsel, CCLA

7:30 – 8:30      Conference Reception


Saturday, September 21, 2013


8:00 – 9:00     Registration

9:00 – 10:20    Plenary session – Expectations of privacy and the contest over ‘public’ spaces

Stephen McCammon, Legal Counsel at the Office of the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner
Andrew Clement, Professor, Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto
Cara Zwibel, Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program, Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Moderator: Avner Levin, Associate Professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management, and Chair of the National Privacy and Access Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association

Governments, private businesses and individuals are increasingly monitoring and recording what happens in public space. When there is a public disturbance, many people’s first reaction will be to reach for their cell phone, and start recording.  Strings of security cameras installed by private businesses track us as we walk down the street. The police regularly deploy mobile surveillance trucks at protests. New and emerging technologies such as drones and automatic license plate readers hold the potential to automate and greatly expand the monitoring and tracking of movements in public space. 

All these activities hold significant implications for privacy, anonymity, freedom of expression and accountability, and Canadian courts are being asked to grapple with these tensions.  In 2006, an Alberta union set up a camera to videotape individuals crossing a picket line, along with a sign saying they may post images of those people on a ‘CasinoScabs’ website.  Some of the people who were filmed filed a privacy complaint, and won an order requiring the union to cease collecting, using or disclosing the information. The case has made it to the Supreme Court, which must now decide whether the laws that protected these individuals’ privacy unjustifiably restrict freedom of expression. This session will explore the privacy, accountability and freedom of expression implications of pervasive and diverse surveillance in public spaces.

10:40 – 12:00 Concurrent sessions

    • Panel 1 – Freedom of the press and the citizen journalist

Kathy English, Public Editor, Toronto Star
Brian Rogers, Media lawyer and Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University School of Journalism
Derek Soberol, citizen journalist
Moderator: Lisa Taylor, Undergraduate Core Skills Director, Ryerson University Journalism Program

Citizen journalism has become a staple of the contemporary media landscape. As raw footage of police shootings flows from youtube to the nightly news, the boundaries between traditional media and individual news gathering become blurred.  What are the barriers private individuals face when engaging in news-gathering activities?  Does the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protect their work?  And how can traditional media and citizen journalism interface?

    • Panel 2 –Police powers and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure in the digital age

Frank Addario, CCLA Board of Directors; Former President of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association
Hamish Stewart, Professor of Law at the University of Toronto
Jacquelyn Burkell, Associate Professor, University of Western Ontario
Moderator: Lisa Austin, Associate Professor, University of Toronto Faculty of Law

New technologies are changing the way that police investigate crimes and search for evidence.  They are also challenging traditional conceptualizations of privacy.  How is our constitution – and in particular the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure – interfacing with these changes?  Are our expectations of privacy shifting when we operate in digital space? And how might this impact police search powers?

12:20 – 2:00   Lunch

Lunchtime plenary session: Cyber bullying: causes, effects and responses

Penny Milton, former deputy minister of the Premier’s Advisory Council on Health, Wellbeing and Social Justice in Ontario
David Fraser, Internet, technology and privacy lawyer, McInnes Cooper LLP
Moderator: Danielle McLaughlin, Director of Education, Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Education Trust

A series of tragic deaths across Canada have brought bullying, and in particular cyber bullying, squarely into the public consciousness.  Legislators, educators and the general public are grappling to find appropriate and effective responses.  Nova Scotia, responding to the death of Rehtaeh Parsons, recently passed the wide-ranging Cyber-Safety Act.  Other provinces have introduced a variety of different measures, and the federal government is considering amendments to the Criminal Code.  Join us for a lunch-time discussion of the complex causes of and responses to bullying, an evaluation of the recent legislative changes, and the implications that these measures have for freedom of speech and privacy.

Lunchtime Walk – (Video) Eyes on the Street: SurveillanceWatch

A Jane’s Walk – space is limited so sign up early at the SurveillanceWatch table! Meet under the Ryerson University surveillance camera at 55 Dundas St West (i.e. the main conference entrance) at 12:30 pm

Walk leaders: Andrew Clement & Joseph Ferenbok  (Univ. of Toronto)

The well-known urbanologist, Jane Jacobs, is famous for noting that “eyes on the street” help make them safer. Human eyes on the street are now being replaced with video surveillance cameras. Join us for a tour of downtown Toronto’s video surveillance infrastructure as we explore how this is happening and its implications for public space, public safety, and public life. We’ll look in particular at camera signage and who is, and is not, compliant with Canadian privacy laws. (Most aren’t). The walk will head to Nathan Phillips Square, then Yonge-Dundas Square via the Eatons Centre, before returning to the conference venue.

 For more information visit: http://surveillancerights.ca

2:15– 3:30      Concurrent sessions

    • Panel 3 – Access to information and open government

Paul Knox, Associate Professor, Ryerson School of Journalism
David Eaves, Public Policy entrepreneur
Pippa Wysong, freelance science writer and board member of the Canadian Science Writers’ Association
Moderator: Ivor Shapiro, Chair, ethics advisory committee of the Canadian Association of Journalism

Democracy and the right to vote mean little if the citizenry cannot access information about their own government’s deliberations, decisions and actions.  Canada’s federal government has been called out numerous times for its “culture of secrecy”, and has faced widespread criticism from diverse constituencies for muzzling independent voices, clamping down on information flow to the press, and obstructing public access to government information.  Our panelists will discuss the current state of affairs in access to information, and provide a vision of what a truly transparent, open and accessible government might look like.

    • Panel 4 –Privacy and expression in the private sector

Andrew Lokan, Adjunct Professor of constitutional litigation, Osgoode Hall Law School
Jonathan Obar, Postdoctoral research fellow, Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto
Tina West, Chair of Marketing Department, Ted Rogers School of Management
Moderator: David Fraser, Internet, technology and privacy lawyer, McInnes Cooper LLP

Private companies are hungry for information about their consumers and employees.  Customer data is collected, stored, aggregated, used and sold.  Employees are asked to submit to surveillance, drug tests, fingerprinting and background checks.  These activities are done in the name of improved products, better information, workplace safety and security – but they also have implications for societal freedom on a larger scale. What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of the private sector’s quest for data? And can we effectively control what companies do with our personal information, or are we held hostage to the ‘I agree’ checkbox?

3:45 – 5:00      Plenary session – Internet freedom – enabling repression or revolution?

Valerie Steeves B.A., J.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Criminology at the University of Ottawa
Alex Smith, Lawyer, Torys LLP
Micheal Vonn, Policy Director, British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
Moderator: Carmen Cheung

In 2000, Bill Clinton stated that attempting to control the Internet in China would be like trying to “nail Jell-O to the wall”.  Over a decade later, the Chinese and numerous other foreign governments have proved highly adept at tracking and controlling online activity.  Recent revelations from the UK and USA have confirmed that almost all our online activity is monitored. And in Canada, the government has tried, and failed, to introduce ‘lawful access’ legislation to delve deeper into digital communications. Yet we persistently also refer to the Internet as a radically democratic communications forum.  Individuals and local communities continue to use online and networked communications to great effect – leaking citizen videos to ensure accountability, organizing large demonstrations, multiplying the reach of dissenting viewpoints and engaging thousands – or millions – in advocacy campaigns.  Technology is a tool that can either be put to use to serve democracy and enhance freedom, or entrench power and support authoritarianism.  Are we winning or losing the battle? 

5:00                 Wrap up, thank you