More than 30 organizations uniting to safeguard Canadians’ privacy rights

by: Council of Canadians | Press Release | Posted Oct 16, 2013

With Parliament set to resume, coalition calls for effective legal measures to protect the privacy of every resident of Canada against government intrusion

OpenMedia.ca is joining with more than 30 major organizations and over a dozen leading experts to launch the largest pro-privacy coalition in Canadian history. With Parliament set to resume, the Protect Our Privacy Coalition has banded together to ensure Canadians get effective legal measures to protect their privacy against government intrusion.

The broad-based coalition includes organizations and individuals from a wide range of political perspectives, including citizen-based groups, civil liberties groups, privacy advocates, right-leaning organizations, First Nations groups, labour groups, small businesses, LGBT groups and academic experts, all of whom have signed onto the statement:

“More than ever, Canadians need strong, genuinely transparent, and properly enforced safeguards to secure privacy rights. We call on Government to put in place effective legal measures to protect the privacy of every resident of Canada against intrusion by government entities.”

Many Coalition members are taking part in today’s Privacy and Access 20/20 Conference in Vancouver, where they will be discussing the need for stronger safeguards to protect Canadians’ privacy.

This morning’s announcement comes among growing concerns that Justice Minister MacKay will re-introduce draconian aspects of the government’s failed online spying Bill C-30 in upcoming legislation. It also comes on the heels of a number of serious threats to Canadians’ privacy and recent revelations of blanket surveillance of law-abiding citizens by secretive spy agencies including Canada’s CSEC (the Communications Security Establishment Canada) and the U.S. NSA. The government’s own watchdog over CSEC has said Canadians’ private information may be caught up in this spying.

The Coalition launch also comes just days after it was revealed that Canadian spy agency CSEC has been conducting invasive industrial espionage against Brazil on behalf of the U.S. NSA. These revelations have prompted concerns that Canada’s relationship with Brazil, an important Latin American ally, could be irreparably damaged by CSEC’s secret activities.

Canadians are invited to show their support for the Coalition by adding their names atOurPrivacy.ca

Here’s what Protect Our Privacy Coalition members have to say:

  • OpenMedia.ca Executive Director Steve Anderson said: “The government should never bet against its people and that’s what they’re doing by eroding the privacy rights of Canadians. The issue has certainly made interesting bedfellows of a wide ranging number of organizations and people who otherwise wouldn’t find themselves working together. We feel compelled to act now or lose the rights and freedoms Canadians hold dear, probably forever.”
  • Garry Neil, Executive Director of The Council of Canadians, says: “We take our right to privacy for granted at our own risk, especially under the current government in Ottawa, which has looked for every excuse to collect, store and share with other countries increasing amounts of our personal information. In an atmosphere where groups such as the Council of Canadians, who are critical of the government’s agenda or its policies, are considered ‘enemies’ of Canada, it is crucial that we come together across the country to fight to preserve and strengthen our privacy protections.”
  • Chris Schafer, Executive Director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, said: “If a free society is based on the premise that government is our servant and not master, then government must always ask permission and justify the necessity before it treads upon our liberty by invading our privacy. Standing on guard for privacy against unwarranted intrusion by government is the price of liberty.”
  • Hillary Homes, Campaigner on Security & Human Rights, Amnesty International Canada, said: “Invasions of privacy through mass surveillance and other means are some of the most invisible yet pervasive human rights violations there are. Redress can be next to impossible. Given the secretive nature of these activities, it is vital that effective oversight and accountability are put in place.”
  • Cindy Blackstock, First Nations child advocate, said: “I remain very concerned about the liberal manner in which government officials troll Facebook and other social media sites with little to few safeguards or monitoring. The testimony of government officials during the hearings on retaliation in my case should alarm all Canadians.”
  • Professor David Lyon, Queen’s University Research Chair in Surveillance Studies, said: “Canada used to be seen as ahead of the game by protecting privacy and human rights in an era of digital information processing. Today we risk not only our reputation but real damage done to innocent people due to needless surveillance and the careless handling of personal information. This timely coalition shows that a wide spectrum of Canadians believes it is time for concerted action to spur a change of direction.”
  • Michael Vonn, Policy Director, BC Civil Liberties Association, said: “The BCCLA is part of the Protect Our Privacy coalition because we believe that privacy is not just an important individual right; privacy supports and underpins a myriad of other democratic values including free speech, autonomy, security and equality. Invasive mass surveillance by our government has no place in Canada.”
  • Phillip Djwa, Agency Principal at Agentic Digital Media, said: “Trust is key to any business success, and it’s undermined when we don’t have strong safeguards to protect our privacy. It’s our Charter-guaranteed right to privacy, especially against secretive government entities. I sleep better at night knowing the work of this broad-based coalition is helping to protect me and my customers”
  • Connie Fournier of Free Dominion said: “The internet is an innovation that has given Canadians the freedom to express their opinions, to interact with their peers, and to share information like never before.  This is why, if we allow the government to use it to spy on citizens, it will become the greatest tool of oppression in the history of mankind.”
  • Vince Gogolek, Executive Director of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, said: “Like a bad penny, bad ideas about increasing surveillance of Canadians keep coming back. We all have to keep our eyes open and stand up against these privacy intrusions whenever and wherever they come up.”
  • Ken Popert, President and Executive Director of Pink Triangle Press said: “We support the Protect Our Privacy Coalition in the hope that it will impede the government’s assault on the Charter of Rights and its creeping theft of our freedom to say what we think without fear of reprisal. Does anyone really want to give the federal government a record of every photo they’ve looked at, every person they’ve chatted with, every conversation they’ve had, every entry in their calendars, every news story they’ve read, every comment they’ve made?”
  • BCGEU Vice President Paul Finch commented on his union’s support for the campaign saying: “We take an active interest in protecting the privacy and broader civil liberties of our membership. As a union we have a tremendous diversity across the province, and a common unifying factor in bringing us together is a shared interest not only in the freedom we are able to collectively bargain at the workplace, but also those rights we seek to defend more broadly across civil society.”
  • Julia Pope of Leadnow.ca said: “Our community has spoken out against potential government use of new, invasive technologies to secretly monitor the private communications and online activities of Canadians. Unwarranted collection and storage of citizens’ sensitive, private data by governments threatens the very foundation of a free and democratic society. It’s time to shine a light on these practices and for Canadians to demand transparency and accountability from our government.”
  • Sophy Lambert-Racine, analyst for Union des consommateurs, said “Access to personal information must be scrutinized by judicial authorities. This is a principle that is part of our privacy laws that should never be compromised, even if current technologies increase opportunities for surveillance.”
  • Internet rights activist Mallory Knodel said: “The Privacy Coalition is terribly important for Canadians and internet users around the world. Preserving our right to privacy has never been more critical and the good news is that encryption technology exists and is effective. And then there are groups like the Coalition who are raising awareness and fighting on our behalf.”
  • Darrell Evans, Executive Director of the Canadian Institute for Information and Privacy Studies, said: “I’m thrilled to be part of a new national privacy movement. No privacy, no freedom. It’s that simple. Think about it.”
  • Sharon Polsky, President of the Privacy and Access Council of Canada notes, “Many of our members across the country are concerned. They now realize that the work they do to ensure that government and private sector organizations comply with Canadian privacy laws, and make sure to safeguard sensitive personal data from unauthorized access or use, are undermined by more than 100 federal laws that allow that sensitive data to be gathered, used, and shared internationally without anyone’s knowledge or consent. As professionals and citizens, they have reason to be concerned.”

Organization Members of the Coalition: Agentic, Affinity Bridge, Amnesty International Canada, BC Civil Liberties Association, BC Freedom  of Information and Privacy Association, BC Library Association, BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), Canadian Constitution Foundation, Communications Workers of America Canada, Canadian Institute for Information and Privacy Studies, Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, Canadian Media Guild, Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Council of Canadians, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Dominion, Greenpeace Canada, Koumbit, LeadNow, Ligue des Droits et Libertes, Media Democracy Day, National Council of Canadian Muslims, OpenMedia.ca, Pink Triangle Press, Privacy & Access Council of Canada, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association, Union des consommateurs, United Steelworkers Canada, World Association for Christian Communication.

Individual Members of the Coalition: Lisa Austin, Colin Bennett, Cindy Blackstock, Andrew Clement, Darrell Evans, Shawna Finnegan, Mallory Knodel, Norman Landry, David Lyon, Randal Marlin, Kate Milberry, Christopher Parsons, Leslie Shade

Media Opportunity

There will be an opportunity for media to speak with a number of expert Coalition members at 12.30pm (PT) in Vancouver, today Thursday October 10.

This will take place at the Privacy and Access 20/20 conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, 655 Burrard St  Vancouver, BC. If you’d like to attend, contact David Christopher on (778) 232-1858 or by email to david@openmedia.ca

About the Protect Our Privacy coalition

Canada has recently seen several large data breaches by the federal government, along with legislative initiatives that threaten the personal privacy of Canadians and come a steep economic cost to taxpayers. Unchecked online surveillance also erodes trust in online service providers, which is bad for commerce and our digital economy.

Concerns over privacy been compounded by recent revelations that the private data of law-abiding Canadians is being collected by our federal spy agency. The agency, CSEC,  is about to receive a new taxpayer supported $900-million, 72,000-square-metre compound in Ottawa.

The Protect Our Privacy Coalition has come together to launch non-partisan campaigns to ensure governments only use personal data in a manner that respects our right to privacy. The Protect Our Privacy Coalition is made up of a network of public interest organizations, businesses, experts, privacy advocates, and concerned citizens.

About OpenMedia.ca

OpenMedia.ca is a network of people and organizations working to safeguard the possibilities of the open Internet. We work toward informed and participatory digital policy.

Through campaigns such as StopTheMeter.ca and StopSpying.ca, OpenMedia.ca has engaged over half-a-million Canadians, and has influenced public policy and federal law. We organized the StopSpying.ca coalition which led the successful campaign to stop the government’s online spying Bill C-30.

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