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Michael Geist's Blog

Canadian Privacy Gets Toews-ed Again: Why a PIA on Airport Eavesdropping Isn't Good Enough

For the second time this year, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has found himself at the centre of a major privacy backlash. In February, Toews was the lead on Bill C-30, the Internet surveillance legislation that sparked a huge public outcry that forced the government to shelve the bill within ten days. While Toews maintains the legislation will return (and implausibly argues that it could have assisted in the Magnotta investigation), it hasn't moved in months.

The toxic connection between Toews and privacy escalated over the weekend with a report that Canada Border Services has installed surveillance equipment in the Ottawa airport that will allow for eavesdropping on traveller conversations. The report led to immediate questions in the House of Commons with Toews defending the practices and even revealing that the eavesdropping activities may be more extensive than initially reported. A day later, Toews was backtracking, announcing that the eavesdropping plans were on hold pending a review from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

That's a start (the federal commissioner's office expressed concern that no privacy impact assessment (PIA) has been filed), but frankly it isn't nearly good enough to address the privacy concerns associated with this issue.

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Canada Appears to Cave to U.S. Conditions to Join TPP Talks

Yesterday I posted a series of questions regarding Canada's entry into the Trans Pacific Partnership talks with the focus on whether the Canadian government caved to U.S. conditions that Canada will not be able to reopen any chapters where agreement has already been reached among the current nine TPP partners and that it would not have "veto authority" over any chapter.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper was asked about the conditions at his press conference and after stating that there were no substantive pre-conditions (at 5:10), admitted that "we have agreed...there is an accession process so we don't disrupt the negotiations...we're not going to try to undo what's been done." In other words, the conditions of entry are now described as an accession process that binds Canada to the already agreed-upon terms of the agreement.
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Day After C-11 Passes, U.S. Chamber Looking For More Canadian Copyright Reform

Hours after Bill C-11 passed third reading in the House of Commons (the bill receives second reading in the Senate today), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is already calling for more reform. Expressing its support for Canada's entry into the Trans Pacific Partnership talks, the Chamber argued "issues still remain regarding Canadian policies on intellectual property and supply management—which we believe the TPP negotiations should address." Based on the leaked IP chapter in the TPP, it seems likely that C-11 will do little to ease the pressure to reform Canadian law.
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