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Search & Seizure

The ability to control who has access to our information and our private spaces, in what circumstances, is foundational to privacy.  

When we lose control over our personal information and private spaces, it impacts our human dignity and our freedom.

However, law enforcement frequently seeks access to private spaces and personal information to collect evidence and investigate crimes, and so a balance must be struck between public safety objectives and our rights.  Traditionally, warrants granted by independent judges have been the primary tool for ensuring that police search powers are used appropriately and reasonably. However, this balance is constantly being challenged by changes in the law and technology. 

Rapid technological changes are expanding the amount of information captured about our daily lives, and digital infrastructures make it increasingly easy to collect information about us. CCLA advocates to ensure the principled privacy protections provided by section 8 of the Charter, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, are appropriately extended and interpreted in the context of new technologies.

We believe that we must be vigilant to ensure that a reasonable balance is maintained, and that privacy protections remain both meaningful and effective.

Our 2018 Supreme Court Win

Can Canadians ever reasonably expect the text messages they send to remain private, even after the messages have reached their destination? Or is the state free, regardless of the circumstances, to access text messages from a recipient’s device without a warrant?

When Nour Marakah was accused of various crimes, text messages he had sent were used as evidence against him. Text messages on his phone were deemed inadmissible because using them would violate Nour’s right to be free from search and seizure; so the investigating team got an iPhone belonging to another person who had received texts from Nour, and attempted to use them as evidence.

Oral communications in Canada are protected and require a warrant to obtain, and with more and more people using texting to communicate, we argued that written communication should also be allowed the same privacy. Advancements in technology make it possible to negate privacy, but they don’t make it legal.

The Court found that there had been a breach of Marakah’s Charter rights in this case.  Without those texts, he would have been acquitted and to allow the conviction to stand would be a miscarriage of justice.


The court agreed that written communications should have the same expectation of privacy as oral communications, and that violating that privacy is a breach on your charter right to be free from search & seizure.

Our Work in Search & Seizure


CCLA Intervening before Ontario Court of Appeal to Oppose Standardless Limitless Searches of Personal Electronic Devices at Border

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association will appear this week before the Court of Appeal for…
April 15, 2024

Supreme Court of Canada rules Police Now Required to Obtain Warrants for IP Address Access

Following the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in Bykovets, Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Executive Director and…
March 1, 2024

Re-hearing ordered in Andrei Bykovets v His Majesty the King

CCLA is intervening in the Supreme Court of Canada case Andrei Bykovets v His Majesty…
January 17, 2024

CCLA Granted Leave to Intervene in Dwayne Alexander Campbell v. His Majesty the King

CCLA was granted leave to intervene in Dwayne Alexander Campbell v. His Majesty the King.…
January 17, 2024

Privacy Rights in the Workplace – CCLA Intervention in York Region District School Board v. Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario

The CCLA will appear as an intervenor before the Supreme Court of Canada in York…
October 17, 2023

Decision in R v Hafizi

On September 28, 2023, the Court of Appeal for Ontario released its decision in R…
September 28, 2023

CBC: Arctic Bay residents raise concerns after RCMP search mail

Shakir Rahim, a lawyer and director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association's criminal justice program,…
August 11, 2023

Supreme Court Dodges Key Issue in R. v. McGregor

A majority of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. McGregor opted not to…
February 21, 2023

Human Rights Tribunal Finds Police DNA Sweep was Discriminatory

Earlier this week the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the Ontario Provincial Police (“OPP”)…
August 23, 2022

CCLA Calls for Moratorium on RCMP Surveillance ‘Tools’

Brenda McPhail, Director of Privacy Technology and Surveillance Program for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association,…
August 9, 2022

Statement on the RCMP’s Use of Spyware

The RCMP uses spyware against Canadians in targeted investigations. The revelation was buried in a…
June 30, 2022

Canadian Civil Liberties Association launches constitutional challenge to Ontario’s strip search law

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and a woman with personal experience have launched a major…
June 20, 2022

Oral Submissions on Bill S-7 Regarding Privacy and Device Searches at the Border

Oral Submission to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence (SECD) regarding Bill…
June 1, 2022

Applying the Charter Outside of Canada

Does the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms apply to the actions of law enforcement…
May 16, 2022

Phone Searches at the Border: Bill S-7 Fails to Protect Privacy

Bill S-7, introduced to provide a threshold for device searches at the border, fails to…
May 16, 2022

SCC Rules on Constitutionality of Post-Arrest Searches of Houses

On Friday April 8 the Supreme Court released its ruling in R v Stairs, a…
April 12, 2022

CCLA to Appear Before the Supreme Court in Police Search and Seizure Case

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has been granted leave to intervene in the upcoming…
June 11, 2021

Shoppers Not Suspects

Shoplifting problem? What shoplifting problem? Retailers need to stop illegal searches of their customers. The…
November 13, 2019

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…
May 31, 2019

CCLA at the Supreme Court: The Worst Carding Case in Canadian History?

On Friday May 31st, the Supreme Court of Canada is going to release its decision…
May 30, 2019

A Phone Is Not a “Good”, It’s a Private Window into Our Lives

Yet another story has emerged about an intrusive attempt to search a traveller’s phone and…
May 5, 2019

CCLA at The Supreme Court: Privacy Lost

It’s a loss for privacy in a disappointing Supreme Court decision released April 18 in…
April 19, 2019

CCLA at SCC: Mills

CCLA at SCC: Mills
April 17, 2019

Supreme Court Finds a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy in Shared Computer

In a decision released today in R v Reeves, the Supreme Court ruled that each Canadian…
December 13, 2018

CCLA urges Nova Scotia to withdraw charges against teen: downloading publicly available data is no crime

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…
April 23, 2018

CCLA At Scc: Privacy In The Classroom… And Everywhere…

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…
April 20, 2018

G20 Civil Case Against Toronto Police Board Begins Today

This week, trial begins in a long-awaited civil case against Toronto Polices Services for its…
February 5, 2018

Privacy at The Border: Committee Report Recommends Customs Act Update

Cell phones should not be considered a “good” at the border, and the Customs Act…
December 22, 2017

A Win for Privacy in Text Messages: Marakah and Jones

CCLA’s voice was heard in the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision released today in R…
December 8, 2017

Privacy protectors: Teens Reflect on Privacy in Digital Age

A group of teens aged 13-19 from across Canada worked over two school years to…
March 22, 2017
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