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The CCLA has always said the Quayside smart city project, co-led by Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs, needed to be reset.

We launched our court application to help make that happen.

Sidewalk Labs' withdrawal from pursuing the project is a victory for privacy and democracy, clearing the way for that reset to take place.

Why Toronto's Smart City is an Issue

In 2019, CCLA began a significant fight for privacy rights in Canadian cities.

It began with a smart city project in Toronto, but it has the potential to set a precedent for all cities and city residents across the country.

A year before a deal between Sidewalk Labs (Google’s sister company) and Waterfront Toronto was struck, Sidewalk had envisioned what a smart city under their care would look like. They articulated their founding vision into a 437-page yellow book which outlined how residents would be rewarded based, in part, on how much data they were willing to share. They proposed that cities give them the authority to tax residents and to create and control public services like schools and transit. They even proposed that Sidewalk have its own police authority and an alternative approach to jailing residents.

While their vision for Toronto doesn’t go quite so far, its foundation matters. We fought against the creation of a Toronto test-bed for products designed to leverage data and monitor or ultimately influence human behaviour, porting an internet model of surveillance capitalism from our computers to our city streets. What is happening in Toronto is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to erosion of privacy rights in projects that pitch the ability to monitor, count, sort, and track people as a feature, not a flaw. But is this really “smart”?

We believe the question is not how to use tools of mass surveillance, but why we would allow them to be used at all.

What is at stake as more Canadian cities embrace the “smart city” movement is the fundamental human dignity and personal autonomy owed to people who live and move about in our Canadian communities, including the opportunity to be just a face in the crowd.

Our Fight For Privacy.

We’re fighting for the fundamental human right to privacy—and all the other rights privacy supports, including free expression and association. We will argue that Waterfront Toronto did not have the jurisdiction to sign off on a data surveillance project with a sibling of the biggest data collector on the planet.

Our Charter-protected rights to privacy, liberty and free association are at risk if we allow our streets, shops, and even homes to become part of a sensor-laden, intensively surveiled neighborhood.

We won’t stop fighting for privacy rights to be respected and upheld by governments and corporations.

“The Google-Waterfront Toronto deal is invalid and needs to be reset. These agreements are contrary to administrative and constitutional law, and set a terrible precedent for the rest of this country. Unlawful surveillance is wrong whether done by data profiteers or the state. We all deserve better from our federal, provincial and municipal governments.”

Michael BryantExecutive Director and General Counsel, CCLA
The Timeline


May 7, 2020

Sidewalk announces it will abandon the Quayside project.

March 26, 2020

Deadline for Approval Extended

The Waterfront Toronto Board of Directors passed a motion to extend the deadline for approval of the MIDP from May 20, 2020 to June 25, 2020.

March 17, 2020

Temporary Adjournment

Toronto Waterfront Revitalization et al. vs CCLA et al. is temporarily adjourned by the Court, subsequent to the March 16 decision to hear only urgent matters to respect public health measures for preventing the spread of COVID-19. We will post a new date here when one is assigned by the Court.

February 26, 2020

Suplemental Commentary

Waterfront Toronto’s Digital Strategy Advisory Panel releases supplemental commentary on the Digital Innovation Appendix.


December 11, 2019

Auditor General Questions Findings

Ontario’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts questioned Waterfront Toronto on the findings of the Auditor General in her 2018 Annual Report. Transcripts of that session are currently available and a formal report will be released.

September 10, 2019

DSAP Preliminary Comentary

Waterfront Toronto’s Digital Strategy Advisory Panel releases preliminary commentary on Sidewalk Labs MIDP.

November 15, 2019

Sidewalk Labs submits DIA

Sidewalk Labs submits the Digital Innovation Appendix (DIA) to Waterfront Toronto and their Digital Strategy Advisory Panel. This document pulls together and provides a bit more detail on the digital innovations proposed in the MIDP.

October 31, 2019

Agreement on “threshold isses“

Waterfront Toronto announces they have reached agreement on the “threshold issues” they identified subsequent to the delivery of the Master Innovation Development Plan (MIDP)

June 17, 2019

Master Innovation Development Plan released

Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto release the 1500+ page Master Innovation Development Plan (MIDP)

April 16, 2019

CCLA Launches Legal Action

Canadian Civil Liberties Association along with co-applicant Lester Brown, commenced proceedings against Waterfront Toronto, and all three levels of government; seeking a reset of the Sidewalk Toronto project.


July 31, 2018

Plan Development Agreement Approved

Waterfront Toronto’s board approved a Plan Development Agreement (PDA) with Sidewalk Labs defining and governing the relationship between the two organizations in the development of a Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP) for Quayside.

October 17, 2017

Project Launch Announcement

October 16, 2017

Commencement of the Project with Signed Framework Agreement

Latest Updates and Briefs


Justice Vs. Surveillance: Protecting Privacy in Smart Cities

In this episode of Justice Vs., we speak to Dr. Brenda McPhail, CCLA’s Privacy, Surveillance…
February 5, 2021

Let’s Not Forget, We Won

June 25th was supposed to be Decision Day, the day Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto would…
June 26, 2020

Statement On The Reset Of The Quayside Project

Today’s news that Sidewalk Labs has withdrawn from pursuing the project is a victory for…
March 7, 2020

Haunting Decisions Due October 31

October 31 is an important decision-day for the Waterfront Toronto/Sidewalk Labs smart city— a fitting…
October 29, 2019

CCLA v. Waterfront Toronto, et. aI: Public Court Documents

CCLA v. Waterfront Toronto, et. aI: Public Court Documents
June 24, 2019

CCLA Written Submission to Toronto City Council Executive Committee

CCLA provided a written submission to Toronto’s Executive Committee for their consideration during their recent…
June 6, 2019

Canada Responds to CCLA’s Demand for Waterfront Toronto Quayside Project Reset

Canada Responds to CCLA’s Demand for Waterfront Toronto Quayside Project Reset
April 18, 2019

CCLA Commences Proceedings Against Waterfront Toronto

Today, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association along with co-applicant Lester Brown, commenced proceedings against Waterfront…
April 16, 2019

Demanding Our Privacy Rights Get a Seat at The Table

CCLA is going to court to reset the Waterfront Toronto/Sidewalk Labs smart city project.  A…
April 16, 2019

Open Letter from CCLA: Calling for a Reset on Waterfront Toronto

Dear Prime Minister, Premier and Mayor, We are writing to you about the Smart City initiative for the Toronto Eastern…
March 5, 2019

We’re not done talking about privacy in the smart city

Since Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto announced their agreement to develop a plan for a…
January 24, 2019

Auditor General To Toronto’s Smart Cities: Not So Fast

Ontario’s Auditor General this week took a provincial agency to task for its role in…
December 6, 2018
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