Did Public Safety Circumvent the Government’s Own Spectrum Public Consultation?

Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that Public Safety Canada expressed concern about the public safety and national security risks associated with lessening or removing foreign ownership restrictions in the telecom sector in a confidential letter to Industry Canada obtained under the Access to Information Act. While the claims are suspect – the overwhelming majority of OECD countries removed telecom foreign ownership restrictions years ago – it is worth noting that Public Safety, which was led at the time by Vic Toews, appears to have tried to circumvent a public consultation by sending two letters to Industry Canada on the same day. One letter was made available to the public as part of an open consultation process, while the other was labelled secret and only now released under ATI.

The letter obtained by Bloomberg, dated February 25, 2011, was signed by Assistant Deputy Minister Daniel Lavoie and addressed to Assistant Deputy Minister Helen McDonald. The secret letter contains quotes that include “the security and intelligence community is of the view that lessening or removing restrictions from the Telecommunications Act, without implementing mitigation measures, would pose a considerable risk to public safety and national security.” The secret letter also apparently adds that foreign ownership may hinder the ability to follow intelligence priorities set by the Cabinet.

It notable that Public Safety filed a separate public letter with Industry Canada on the same day. That letter, also signed by Daniel Lavoie and dated February 25, 2011, has been on the Industry Canada website for months as it was submitted as part of the consultation on the 700 MHz spectrum auction. The letter touches on the same issues, but does not contain the same language. The unequivocal warnings in the secret letter are gone, replaced by softer language that “increased investment could inadvertently pose national security risks.”

The Public Safety approach is deeply troubling as the dual letter approach may have been an effort to circumvent the public consultation process by stating one thing in a public consultation (which would be open for public comment) and another in a secret letter sent to Industry Canada on the same day. Industry Canada officials would know the real views of the department, while the public would be kept in the dark.


  1. Par for the course for this corrupt conservative government.

  2. Of course they did. They need to control the message the public sees, otherwise opponents to their viewpoints might have more proof to show that they are wrong and know they are wrong. And when they can’t do that, they label everyone who disagrees with them as extremists so that they can belittle their points without addressing them.

  3. pat donovan says:

    the usual
    they lock down PS communications.. (scientists included)
    and open private nets to police inspection
    and expect telecoms and users to foot the bill

    while hiving off profitable monopolies for their personal benefits.

    the most expensive and over-controlled com system in the world.


  4. Did the Conservatives lie to Parliament too?
    Did the Conservatives lie to Parliament about this? How could they not have? The real question here is how closely will Harper follow the plot of Star Wars in his pursuit of absolute power? Will Luke Skywalker be NDP or Liberal? Will Darth MacKay lose control of the Death Star?

  5. Jack Robinson says:

    Public Safety or De Facto Criminalization of Perceived Enemies of the State?
    That Our Caligulan Caesar of Sussex not only continues to allow and provide Smirking Sphynx support to the dumbest, most ballistically bombastic and brain-dead sycophant of his entire cabal of Mugwump Ministers, Taser Vic Toews whilst conducting pork barrel politics with The Big Telecom Cartel here in Kanadistan, the soon-to-be Romney controlled U.S. Congress Interuptus and David Cameron’s sinister Downing Street treacly dirty tricks ALL BEHIND the mindfog and Dragon’s Breath of Executive Privelage tells me this: That the vaunted and hyped Cyber Citizen Activist Internet Community is not only in a comatose state of Narcissistic Narcosis… but is on the verge of becoming the the ctrl/alt/delete key ingredient for Blue Meanie Deli-Brand Soylent Green.

  6. Is it any wonder?
    Vic Toews credibility went out the window when he was saying one thing in public [Family Values] and quite another to his babysitter. Lying for him does not seem to be a problem. This is not the type judgement I want in charge of this countries safety and security issues.

  7. see past the nose much?
    I don’t know why a lot of you are rambling on like teenagers.

    I actually find the letters true.

    Once you get into these foreign controlled telecoms in Canada you can kiss all of your privacy away.

    Just look at how American companies operate now in Canada.

    There have already been provinces that removed sensitive info from companies who are owned or even partially owned by Americans due to their laws. If the states ask for any info American entities operating in Canada comply with American law.

    Dr. Geist has written about this before. Even the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has written about this before.

    I seriously don’t see how, and why, you are all blind to this now, and all of a sudden.

    I say block foreign ownership. End of story.

    And if you can’t see this, then maybe you are just too young and don’t know any better.

    Competition in telecom has to come within and it should be controlled.

    I sure as heck wouldn’t use a company with American interests. Nor should you. I wouldn’t use a foreign company period because you have no protections.

    Unless of course if the Privacy Commissioner changes tune…. and Dr. Geist from what they have previously stated over the years.

  8. @eh wut
    I’d prefer that over having to deal with the over priced market we have now. Sorry, but opening up our telecom for foreign operations is a good thing. The only people who really have overly much to fear from it are the current major telecom companies.

    Plus US firms have had to deal with Canadian privacy laws before if they want to operate here.

  9. eh wut said: >Once you get into these foreign controlled telecoms in Canada you can kiss all of your privacy away.

    Sorry buddy but just because they a foreign company operating in Canada doesn’t mean all of a sudden all Canadian privacy laws go out the window.

    Think about it and stop spreading fud.

  10. It is fud
    Yes, this is fud, unless laws aren’t obeyed. But that happens anyway in the spy world. The US doesn’t need ownership to gain access to private Canadians telcom. And for the love of God I hope that our Government and our security organizations communicate in secure, encrypted, fashion.

    So, ownership becomes moot at that point. If it is a state of war and a foreign body is threatening to shut our communications down, Nationalization solves that problem fast enough.

    So here I sit, looking at your fud, failing to see it’s validity.

  11. see past the nose much?
    Again, a lot (if not all) of you are acting and writing like teenagers.

    I guess this is a very young crowd who have never read the issues already raised the past years, and those directly raised by Dr. Geist, or indirectly raise by Dr. Geist via

    Nor have any of you followed priv. com. over the past 8 years or so where a lot of these issues have also been raised by our very own privacy commissioner.

    Next you will tell me BC and one of the maritime prov’s never ended contracts with American entities operating in Canada which was contracted to hold information about Canadians.

    Nor does it take a war, as one person above stated (that was asinine to state).

    Maybe you kids can start reading and learning what was said by the Dr. Geist and cippic and priv com and the BC priv com and various other provincial privacy commissioners.

    Let me know when you kids are up to date and no longer think it takes a war [insert eye-roll here] to have your info cross the border.

    Maybe Dr. Geist would like to address these issues in a future post?

    I would find it interesting, as I’m sure many others would.

    I don’t think all of you will be singing the same tune if the Doc does write up on this.

    Nor do I think it’s worth the lousy 3$ in telecom savings you will get.

    The comments here really makes me wonder if this is a “redflag deals” crowd looking to save a dollar instead of trying to see past the tip of their nose.

  12. re eh wut
    golly gee wiz,
    i sure wish we wheren’t all morons and smart like you sir.
    all i see in your comment is a not so covert hostility and arogance.why don’t you educate us rather than be a dick?

  13. @Eh wut
    Sorry, I haven’t been a teenager for a while now. I am tired of overly protective markets for what amounts to fear mongering rather than good reasoning, and just locking them out because they are foreign owned is not a good one at this point.

    Plus, if you fly, your information already goes to the US for “safety concerns”, and if you use any US online services (which I’m sure every Canadian does) then you still have the same problem. So really, it’s nothing terribly new.

  14. He’s actually correct. The current legal framework was built on the assumption that the telecoms are Canadian and can be hold responsible on Canadian law and territory.

    If you want to change the ownership rule, then you have to change the legal framework too. No debate on that.

    Of course you can debate on *how* to change it.

  15. @Napalm
    Which is fine, but I still think it’s a poor reason not to change the ownership rules. All it means is the government needs to spend more time thinking about the issue.

    Plus with the original issue, it’s not so much that they disagree, it’s that they decided to do it with two different letters, the public one being much softer (and probably more politically beneficial) that is the problem here. It kind of undermines the reason to have public consultation if you’re going to privately submit things.