Privacy and Information Commissioners of Canada attending their annual meeting noted with sadness last week’s events in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, and in Ottawa, Ontario. We join our voices to the thousands of Canadians in expressing our condolences to the grieving families and friends of the fallen whose duty it was to defend our rights and freedoms.
The following days, weeks and months will be critical in determining the future course of action to ensure not only that Canada remains a safe country, but also that our fundamental rights and freedoms are upheld. Legislative changes being contemplated may alter the powers of intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
We acknowledge that security is essential to maintaining our democratic rights. At the same time, the response to such events must be measured and proportionate, and crafted so as to preserve our democratic values.
To that end, the Privacy and Information Commissioners of Canada call on the federal Government:
- To adopt an evidence-based approach as to the need for any new legislative proposal granting additional powers for intelligence and law enforcement agencies;
- To engage Canadians in an open and transparent dialogue on whether new measures are required, and if so, on their nature, scope, and impact on rights and freedoms;
- To ensure that effective oversight be included in any legislation establishing additional powers for intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
Canadians both expect and are entitled to equal protection for their privacy and access rights and for their security. We must uphold these fundamental rights that lie at the heart of Canada’s democracy.