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Michael Geist's Blog

Will Anyone Blink First? Canada - EU Trade Agreement Appears to Hit a Stalemate

Canadian and European officials traded public barbs yesterday over the inability to finalize the Canada - EU Trade Agreement. EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said unless Canada makes some additional steps, there will be no deal. Canadian officials responded that Europe has yet to meet Canada's core concerns.  The comments come after a ministerial meeting this month was unable to yield an agreement. De Gucht and Canadian International Trade Minister Ed Fast met in Brussels in November 2012, but those talks failed to solve the outstanding issues. The two ministers met again in Ottawa two weeks ago with a similar result.

While officials continue to put a brave face on the talks, the latest comments suggest mounting frustration at the unwillingness of either side to cave on key issues in order to strike a deal. The major remaining issues have been the same for months: agriculture, patent protection for pharmaceutical companies, investor access and protection, public procurement, automotive issues, and cultural protections.  Indeed, these issues were identified years ago as the major areas of disagreement (copyright was initially on this list but the defeat of ACTA removed it as an issue). 

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Ontario Court of Appeal Permits Warrantless Search of Cellphone Without Password Protection

In a surprising and troubling decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal has permitted a police search of a cellphone that was not password protected or locked during the course of an arrest.  The court found that the police had a reasonable belief that the phone might contain relevant evidence and it was acceptable to undertake a "cursory" examination of the contents of the phone. The court noted that "if the cell phone had been password protected or otherwise 'locked' to users other than the appellant, it would not have been appropriate to take steps to open the cell phone and examine its contents without first obtaining a search warrant." 

The decision raises serious concerns given the increasingly blurry line between smartphones and personal computers (the court found that this particular phone was not a "mini-computer") and the suggestion that the contents on a phone without password protection is "readily available to others." Canadians are surely entitled to expect that the contents on a private cellphone - whether locked or unlocked - are private and that police access to the content should require a warrant.
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