CCLA Win

Victory at the Supreme Court: A fight for everyone’s right to privacy and equality (R v Le)

Victory! Today, the Supreme Court rendered a monumental decision recognizing that police carding in a private backyard constitutes arbitrary detention, a violation of the Charter. The Court stated the police have no legal authority to question people who are doing nothing wrong, nor demand their IDs. Both the majority and dissent recognized that a person may experience a police interaction differently due to their race and existing relations between the police and various racial groups, as we argued. The majority also accepted a position advanced by us stating even a short interaction with the police can have a significant impact on an individual and can be considered a form of detention. As a result of these findings, the Court set aside Mr. Le’s convictions and entered his acquittal. A true victory for civil liberties.

Post Below from October 12, 2018

A quick summary

Tom Le and four of his friends were sitting in the backyard of a home when police walked in. 20-year old Le is Asian, and his four friends (one, a resident of the home) are all Black.

That night the officers had been looking for completely different people, and were told by a security guard for the housing complex that one of the men sometimes hung around the address where Mr. Le and his friends were that night.

The officers went to the house, saw no wrongdoing, walked through the gateway without permission, and asked the racialized young men there questions about themselves, including asking for identification.

One officer asked Mr. Le for his identification and what was in his bag. At that point Mr. Le fled, but was soon apprehended and searched, and found to have a weapon and drugs in the bag.

What CCLA is asking for

We are intervening in this case before the Supreme Court of Canada on Oct. 12 to ask the court to protect individual rights to privacy and equality when it comes to interactions with police.

CCLA argues that the legal test that helps courts decide who has a reasonable expectation of privacy in a space like a backyard (and who as a result has standing to make an argument in court that their Charter right to be free from unreasonable search was violated) focuses too much on who owns or controls the property. Everyone – whether they are a homeowner, renter, or guest; whether low or high income – should be entitled to an equal zone of privacy in which they are able to move freely and with relative anonymity without unnecessary intrusion by the state.

We are also offering the court a test to determine when a person has been detained by police – a test that should properly consider the power of police, and the fear and distrust experienced by racialized communities in their relationships with law enforcement. Our goal is to seek guidance for police officers so that all individuals can walk around freely, and all can have equally meaningful access to their privacy, liberty and equality rights.

What are the civil liberties concerns?

There are intersecting privacy and equality rights in this case.

Imagine walking down the street and being stopped and questioned by police. Would you feel a little nervous and like you should probably stay and answer questions? Imagine if the questioning were done in an accusatory manner. Would you feel under suspicion? And how comfortable would you feel if this was in your neighbourhood with friends and neighbours nearby? Many people in Canada, including those who have been pulled over while driving, can relate to the feeling of fear and intimidation when confronted by police officers.

If you are a part of a racialized community, this may happen far too frequently to you or to people you know. For members of heavily policed communities, police encounters carry the sting of discrimination and a sense of injustice, along with uncertainty as to the results: a risk of abuse of power, escalation, charges, or use of force. How would you feel facing police in this context, and what would you do?

It is important for all people to have the freedom to move about safely in their communities, and in particular in private spaces. Police probably wouldn’t just walk into a private backyard in an affluent white neighbourhood and start immediately questioning those present – and it shouldn’t have happened in a community housing complex to a group of racialized young men. Privacy rights must be extended equally.

Why this case matters

This case raises serious questions about the equal enjoyment of privacy rights for all people, the impact of race in police encounters, the right to be free from arbitrary detention, and the need for courts to consider the effects of inequality and systemic racism on Charter-protected interests.

Civil Society Statement Regarding Bill C-59

(Le texte français suivra)

Civil Society Statement Regarding Bill C-59, An Act Respecting National Security Matters

Bill C-59 was explicitly introduced with the claim that it fixes “the problematic aspects” of its predecessor, Bill C-51—now Canada’s Anti-terrorism Act, 2015.

We, the undersigned civil society organizations and individual experts, are concerned that C-59 does not truly fix all of the problems with our current national security law, and it has introduced some very serious new issues.

The Bill was referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU) after first reading, which leaves open the possibility for amendments. SECU has had the opportunity to hear from many of us, and many others, about where Bill C-59 falls short, where it oversteps, and how it can be improved to ensure that it takes a rights-centric approach to national security. The coming days and weeks are a crucial time to speak out.  As Bill C-59 moves through Parliament our government needs to hear from those who think that Canada deserves better and that this legislation can and must protect national security while firmly and unequivocally upholding human rights.

There is consensus amongst civil liberties and human rights organizations about some of the most troubling aspects of Bill C-59. Our concerns focus on: 1) the bill’s empowerment of our national security agencies to conduct mass surveillance; 2) the practical impossibility of an individual effectively challenging their inclusion on the “no-fly list”; and 3) the authorization of Canada’s signals intelligence agency, CSE, to conduct cyberattacks. While these by no means represent the only problems with Bill C-59 that require “fixes”, they are among the areas where change is both urgently required and most broadly supported.

Authorizing Mass Surveillance

We acknowledge the increase in oversight and review that may be achieved with the creation of a National Security Intelligence Review Agency and an Intelligence Commissioner. However, Bill C-59 also expressly empowers mass surveillance through the collection of bulk data and “publicly available” data – a term that is not clearly defined in the bill in relation to datasets collected by our human intelligence agency, CSIS, and extraordinarily expansively defined for the CSE.  In both cases, “publicly available” is open to interpretations that are as sweeping as they are troubling. In particular, there is no requirement that publicly available information must have been lawfully obtained. In the absence of effective limits in the law, the bodies that have been set up to improve accountability may review or oversee mass surveillance activities, but not necessarily prevent or limit them. The bill also lowers the threshold to allow CSIS to collect information about Canadians – even data that is expressly acknowledged to not relate directly and immediately to activities threatening the security of Canada–if it is “relevant,” rather than restricting collection to information that is necessary. There has been little meaningful debate on whether this lower threshold is necessary or reasonable in light of the goals the government seeks to achieve.

Secret trials with secret evidence for individuals on the “no fly” list

The no-fly list has never been shown to increase aviation safety. Bill C-59 perpetuates a scheme that severely limits rights based on a mere suspicion of dangerousness that cannot be effectively challenged in a fair and open process. The government’s proposed redress system for those mistakenly on a list of people subject to enhanced security screening (“slow fly list”) does not assist those who are simply prohibited from flying. These individuals face a process in which they can legally be denied information relevant to their case, can be denied access to their own hearing and have no right to an independent special advocate with access to all of the evidence against them. SECU has already recommended a number of changes to the no-fly list including the use of Special Advocates. Some of us, and others,  have gone further, and argued for the repeal of the “no fly” system completely. Successive governments have allowed this system to endure for over a decade, and it is imperative that the fundamental rights issues it poses be acknowledged and addressed.

Legalizing Cyberattacks by “Canada’s NSA”, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE)

We are seeing our “intelligence” agencies transformed in dangerous directions. C-59 continues to allow CSIS active “disruption” powers and now also gives the CSE new powers to use cyber-attacks against foreign individuals, states, organizations or terrorist groups.  This would include hacking, deploying malware, and “disinformation campaigns”. There is a significant danger of normalizing state-sponsored hacking, not to mention the obvious tension when the agency mandated with protecting our cyber infrastructure is also powerfully incentivized to hide and hoard security vulnerabilities for its own attack exploits.  We need a public discussion about what threats these attack powers are meant to address and what new threats they may open us up to if a Canadian attack results in cyberwar escalation.

Canadians were told that the new law would “fix” the old law.  Instead, we got a bill that nominally addresses some concerns, but exploits the opportunity to introduce more radical new powers for national security agencies.

If the goal of Bill C-59 is truly to “fix” Canada’s national security laws, there is still much work to be done.

Signed by (alphabetical order):

Amnesty International Canada
BC Civil Liberties Association
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
Canadian Association of University Teachers
Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Canadian Federation of Students
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Independent Jewish Voices Canada
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
Inter Pares
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
Ligue des droits et libertés
MiningWatch Canada
National Council of Canadian Muslims
National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)
OpenMedia
Privacy and Access Council of Canada — Conseil du Canada de l’Accès et la vie Privée
Rideau Institute
Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association
Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC)

As Individuals:

Elizabeth Block, Independent Jewish Voices, Canadian Friends Service Committee
James L. Turk, Director, Centre for Free Expression, Ryerson University
Sharon Polsky, MAPP, Data Protection Advocate & Privacy by Design Ambassador
Sid Shniad, Member of the national steering committee, Independent Jewish Voices Canada

To add your voice and send this message to parliamentarians, click here.
For more information on Bill C-59, click here


claration de la société civile sur le projet de loi C-59, Loi concernant des questions de sécurité nationale

Le gouvernement canadien a déposé le projet de loi C-59 en affirmant explicitement que ce dernier est une solution aux «aspects problématiques» de son prédécesseur, le projet de loi C-51 — maintenant la Loi antiterroriste de 2015.

Nous, les organisations de la société civile et les expert.es individuel.les soussigné.es, sommes préoccupé.es par le fait que le projet de loi C-59 non seulement ne règle pas tous les problèmes liés à la législation actuelle sur la sécurité nationale, mais il introduit aussi des nouveaux problèmes très sérieux.

Le projet de loi a été renvoyé au Comité permanent de la sécurité publique et nationale de la Chambre des communes (SECU) après la première lecture, laissant la porte ouverte à d’importants amendements. SECU a eu l’occasion d’entendre plusieurs d’entre nous, et beaucoup d’autres, au sujet du projet de loi C-59 : ses lacunes, comment il dépasse les limites et comment il peut être amélioré afin d’assurer une approche de la sécurité nationale centrée sur les droits. Les jours et les semaines à venir sont une période cruciale pour faire entendre nos voix. Pendant que le projet de loi C-59 progresse au Parlement, notre gouvernement doit écouter ceux et celles qui pensent que le Canada mérite mieux et que cette loi peut et doit protéger la sécurité nationale tout en respectant fermement et sans équivoque les droits de la personne.

Les organisations de défense des droits humains et des libertés civiles s’entendent sur les aspects les plus troublants du projet de loi C-59. Nos préoccupations portent sur : 1) la légalisation de la surveillance de masse; 2) l’impossibilité pratique pour un individu de contester efficacement son inclusion sur la «liste d’interdiction de vol»; et 3) l’autorisation de lancer des cyberattaques donnée à l’agence de renseignement électronique du Canada, le CST. Bien que ces trois points ne représentent en aucun cas les seuls problèmes liés au projet de loi C-59 nécessitant des «correctifs», ils font partie des domaines où le changement est à la fois urgent et le plus largement soutenu.

Autorisation de la surveillance de masse

Nous reconnaissons qu’une augmentation de la responsabilisation en matière de sécurité nationale pourrait être réalisée grâce à la création du poste de Commissaire au renseignement ainsi que de l’Office de surveillance des activités en matière de sécurité nationale et de renseignement. Cependant, le projet de loi C-59 autorise expressément la surveillance de masse par la collecte de données en vrac et de données «accessibles au public» — un terme qui n’est pas clairement défini dans le projet de loi relativement aux «ensembles de données» recueillis par le SCRS, notre agence de renseignement domestique, et qui est défini de façon extraordinairement large pour le CST. Dans les deux cas, «accessible au public» est ouvert à des interprétations aussi générales que troublantes. En particulier, il n’est pas nécessaire que les informations accessibles au public aient été obtenues légalement. En l’absence de limites efficaces dans la loi, les organismes qui seront mis en place afin d’améliorer la reddition de comptes pourront réviser ou superviser les activités de surveillance de masse, mais pas nécessairement les empêcher ou les limiter. Le projet de loi C-59 abaisse également le seuil permettant au SCRS de recueillir de l’information sur les Canadien.nes. Alors que la cueillette devait auparavant être «nécessaire», elle n’aurait maintenant qu’à être «pertinente» à l’exercice des fonctions du SCRS. Même les données expressément reconnues comme n’étant pas directement et immédiatement en lien avec des menaces à la sécurité du Canada pourront être recueillies à l’avenir. Il y a eu peu de débats significatifs à savoir si ce seuil inférieur est nécessaire ou raisonnable compte tenu des objectifs que le gouvernement cherche à atteindre.

Procès et preuves secrètes pour les individus sur la liste d’interdiction de vol

Il n’a jamais été démontré que la liste d’interdiction de vol augmente la sécurité aérienne. Le projet de loi C-59 perpétue un régime qui limite sévèrement les droits en raison d’un simple soupçon de dangerosité qui ne peut être efficacement contesté dans le cadre d’un processus équitable et ouvert. Le système de réparation proposé par le gouvernement pour ceux et celles qui sont inclus.es, par erreur, sur une liste de personnes faisant l’objet d’un contrôle de sécurité renforcé («slow fly list») n’aide pas ceux et celles à qui ont interdit de voler. Ces personnes sont confrontées à un processus dans lequel elles peuvent légalement se voir refuser des informations pertinentes à leur cas, se voir refuser l’accès à leur propre procès, et dans lequel elles n’ont pas droit à un avocat spécial indépendant ayant accès à toutes les preuves contre elles. SECU a déjà recommandé un certain nombre de changements à la liste d’interdiction de vol, y compris l’utilisation d’avocats spéciaux. Certains d’entre nous, et d’autres, sont allés plus loin et ont plaidé en faveur de l’abrogation complète de la liste d’interdiction de vol. Les gouvernements successifs ont permis à ce système de durer pendant plus d’une décennie, et il est impératif que les problèmes qu’il pose en matière de droits fondamentaux soient reconnus et réglés.

Légalisation des cyberattaques par la «NSA du Canada», le Centre de la sécurité des télécommunications (CST)

Nous observons de dangereuses transformations opérées sur nos agences de «renseignement». Le projet de loi C-59 continue d’autoriser le SCRS à exercer des pouvoirs de «perturbation» et donne maintenant au CST des nouveaux pouvoirs de lancer des cyberattaques contre des personnes, des États, des organisations ou des groupes terroristes étrangers. Cela comprendrait le piratage, le déploiement de logiciels malveillants et les «campagnes de désinformation». Il existe un danger important de normalisation du piratage parrainé par l’État, sans parler de la tension évidente lorsque l’agence mandatée de protéger notre cyber infrastructure est aussi fortement encouragée à cacher et exploiter les vulnérabilités de sécurité pour ses propres attaques. Nous avons besoin d’une discussion publique sur les menaces auxquelles ces pouvoirs d’attaque sont censés répondre ainsi que sur les nouvelles menaces auxquelles ils pourraient nous exposer si une attaque canadienne dégénérait en cyberguerre.

Le gouvernement a dit aux Canadien.nes que la nouvelle loi «réparerait» la loi précédente. Au lieu de cela, nous avons un projet de loi qui répond nominalement à certaines préoccupations, mais exploite aussi cette opportunité afin d’introduire de nouveaux pouvoirs plus radicaux pour les agences de sécurité nationale.

Si l’objectif du projet de loi C-59 est vraiment de «réparer» les lois canadiennes sur la sécurité nationale, il reste encore beaucoup de travail à faire.

[Signé par — en ordre alphabétique]

Amnesty International Canada
BC Civil Liberties Association
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
Canadian Association of University Teachers
Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Canadian Federation of Students
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Coalition pour la surveillance internationale des libertés civiles
Inter Pares
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
Ligue des droits et libertés
MiningWatch Canada
National Council of Canadian Muslims
National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)
OpenMedia
Privacy and Access Council of Canada — Conseil du Canada de l’Accès et la vie Privée
Rideau Institute
Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association
Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC)
Voix Juives Indépendantes Canada

Comme individu.e.s:

Elizabeth Block, Independent Jewish Voices, Canadian Friends Service Committee
James L. Turk, Director, Centre for Free Expression, Université Ryerson
Sharon Polsky, MAPP, Data Protection Advocate & Privacy by Design Ambassador
Sid Shniad, membre du conseil d’administration, Voix Juives Indépendantes – Canada

 

CCLA Calls for Improvements to Canada’s Privacy Laws

The following is a reprint of a letter sent by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to Minister Scott Brison on March 27, 2018.

The Honourable Scott Brison
Acting Minister of Democratic Institutions
90 Elgin Street, 8th Floor
Ottawa, Canada K1A 0R5
President@tbs-sct.gc.ca

Dear Minister Brison,

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has spoken out on the need for stronger, more effective, more enforceable, up-to-date public and private sector privacy legislation for a long time. Consequently, we welcome your recent remarks to the media on March 20, 2018 regarding the Facebook Cambridge Analytica affair which included a statement that the government is open to ways that we can strengthen Canada’s privacy laws.

There is a large body of information available regarding the ways to make our privacy laws stronger. The current Privacy Commissioner of Canada has spoken out, this week and in the past. His predecessor also did so. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s website lists 18 appearances before Parliament or Parliamentary Committees, submissions, reports, and letters relating to the need for reforming the Privacy Act between 2005 to 2018 and providing concrete suggestions as to what needs to be done. There are another 16 for the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). Most recently, on February 28 2018, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics published its report, including recommendations, resulting from its most recent study of PIPEDA, the act that would apply to Facebook’s collection of Canadians’ personal information.

Big data practices, if unconstrained by strong legal protections for privacy, have already been shown to have the potential to interfere with the democratic process. Left unchecked, they may also introduce new forms of discrimination fueled by profiling and automated decisions-making, and potentially inhibit free speech if people in Canada fear their words may be collected, aggregated, and used to affect them in unpredictable ways.

Privacy law cannot solve all of these problems, but it is an excellent start.

We do not yet know if Canadians’ data has been caught up in this scandal, but we can predict with certainty that it will be in one of the next ones, unless steps are taken to give us the strong privacy protection we all deserve and need in order to participate safely in economic and social spheres online.

If there is any way we may assist you in moving forward to make the necessary improvements to Canada’s Privacy Act and the Personal Information and Protection of Electronic Documents Act, we stand ready.

Sincerely,

Brenda McPhail
Director, Privacy, Technology & Surveillance Project
Canadian Civil Liberties Association

YorkU Protesters: You Have the Power. We Have Your…

Respond to CCLA’s survey about York University’s strike to tell us about your experience. Click here (or see below) to read the letter we sent to York University’s President and Vice-Chancellor.

On March 28, CCLA’s Executive Director Michael Bryant spoke with President Lenton. Here was Dr. Lenton’s response.

The following letter was sent to Dr. Rhonda Lenton on March 27, 2018

Dr. Rhonda L. Lenton
President and Vice-Chancellor
York University
4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
rlenton@yorku.ca

I am writing to you about disturbing reports regarding the reported activities of security personnel during the current strike at York U, including the student occupation taking place in the University Senate Chamber.  While we are continuing to gather information, allegations of intimidation by security personnel and surveillance of lawful protesters have been brought to our attention.

A public university in Canada is the last place that should see civil liberty violations during a strike.  The right to strike, to express oneself, to protest, to gather together in solidarity — this is the stuff of freedom in Canada.  

Your office and York University is accountable for the actions of your “security” personnel – regardless of whether they are directly employed by the University or hired as contractors.  They must respect everyone’s civil liberties during a strike and protest. They must not do anything to deter the exercise of those rights or otherwise engage in intimidation tactics, such as video-taping, questioning, detaining, or interfering with the civil liberties of strikers, protestors, observers, or passers-by.  

We would like to understand the basis on which you have contracted with a private security firm during the strike. We are also seeking information about the firm’s surveillance practices, including how the information they gather is stored, retained, or otherwise used. Are they operating in compliance with York’s own policies on obtaining consent for photographs, video and audio recordings, which requires all third parties to be informed that the University is covered by FIPPA and to ask subjects for consent for video or audio recordings?

We are seeking the opportunity to meet with you for the purposes of addressing the foregoing.  Every individual on York U’s campus has the power, and we have their back.

Sincerely,

Michael Bryant
Executive Director & General Counsel