November 20, 2002
The Honourable Elinor Caplan
Minister of National Revenue
555 Mackenzie Avenue
Dear Minister Caplan:
RE: Canada Customs & Revenue Agency ("CCRA") - Advance Passenger Information ("API") / Passenger Name Record ("PNR") Program
Yesterday, my colleague David Loukidelis, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia, wrote to you about the CCRA program to develop a broad database and tracking system from API and PNR records. Previously, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and seven provincial and territorial privacy commissioners and ombudsmen (myself included) wrote to you on this critically important issue.
Despite expressing our grave concerns, the Government of Canada persists in citing "potential future threats relating to security, public health and criminal activity" as the justification for its substantially increased powers under the recently amended Customs Act. The resulting massive surveillance initiative has the potential to significantly diminish the personal privacy of the Canadian public.
The new powers provide for the release of customs information to other agencies and departments for "specific public-policy purposes." What is missing is a clear explanation of how these powers will be used for actual anti-terrorism initiatives, and why these powers are believed to be necessary and effective in addressing terrorism activities.
If the prevention of terrorism activities is the goal, then this purpose should be clearly articulated and specific powers appropriately circumscribed. But if the policy goal is to expand the database tracking to assist with general law enforcement, then civil liberties, including privacy, should be protected with the traditional criminal law procedures.
While I agree that certain privacy-invasive measures may be necessary for anti-terrorism purposes, using the guise of anti-terrorism to develop a database which can track and profile all ordinary individuals entering Canada by any means, and retaining this data for six years, is an affront to the rights and liberties that Canadians hold dear. To underscore this point, I note the review of legal cases which Commissioner Loukidelis provided in his letter.
The development of a massive system for surveillance, profiling and data-mining, when applied beyond the legislated auspices of anti-terrorism, cannot be countenanced. The people of Canada do not wish to have their every activity monitored, tracked and analyzed. They care deeply about their privacy rights. This was reinforced by the public's outcry over the Human Resources and Development Canada's Longitudinal Labour Force File, which was ultimately dismantled.
If you wish to expand the general powers of law enforcement, then the public must be consulted. I respectfully suggest that the people of Canada deserve to have an open debate over any substantial expansion of powers beyond the original purpose of combating terrorism. I look forward to hearing from you.
Ann Cavoukian, Ph.D.
||The Honourable Martin Cauchon |
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
The Honourable David Collenette
Minister of Transport
The Honourable Arnold Easter
Solicitor General of Canada
Assistant Commissioner, CCRA
Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Provincial/Territorial Privacy Commissioners and Ombudsmen