News from ICLMG

Canada should not collect all travelers’ exit data, ICLMG tells Senate Committee

On Monday November 5, ICLMG National Coordinator, Tim McSorley, appeared in front of the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence regarding Bill C-21, an Act to Amend the Customs Act, which allows the sharing of Canadian travelers’ exit data between the US and Canada. In short, we told the Senate Commitee:

We believe the best solution would be to not collect travelers’ data en-masse, since restrictions in C-21 could be negated by powers granted in other legislation. Instead, we believe that security agencies should focus efforts on improving data collection on an as-needed basis. We therefore are opposed to the provisions of Bill C-21 that would lead to the default collection of all travelers’ information by the CBSA.

Here is Tim’s full presentation:

Thank you to the Committee for inviting me to present on behalf of the 45 member organizations of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group coalition.

While we recognize that there are three overarching reasons for Bill C-21 – national security, law enforcement and social policies – our focus is on national security.

Over the past 15 years, the ICLMG has been critical of proposals that further integrate Canadian border security with United States border security, which has been a near constant project since Sept. 11, 2001. In particular, we have paid attention to the impact that increasing border security can have on Canadians’ rights and freedoms, including around privacy rights, the right to movement and freedom of expression.

While we are not opposed to cooperation on security, we believe that such intensive security harmonization undermines Canada’s ability to set security policies according to Canadians’ priorities and concerns, and to adequately protect Canadians’ civil liberties as set out by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The concerns have not been unfounded, as we have seen instances of security and border agreements that either follow the United States’ lead and/or are negotiated with little public input or debate.

The bill must also be considered in the context of Canada’s ever growing information collecting and sharing regimes, both domestically and internationally. The Canadian government now collects more data on its residents than ever before, and participates in unprecedented international intelligence sharing partnerships, such as the Five Eyes alliance. Such expansion gives rise to greater concerns over privacy protections and at a minimum, a chill on other rights.

Bill C-21 may at first glance appear straightforward, but the issues involved becomes more complex when examined in the context of increasing surveillance, data retention and sharing, and the use of this data to analyse and identify security threats.

The government has stated that the data to be collected will consist of the information on the second page of a person’s passport. However, the data collected will go further to include the location and date of departure, point of entry, and for those travelling on a “prescribed conveyance” any identifying number issued to that passenger.

This kind of data, tying a person to their movement across borders, can paint a very specific and revealing portrait, especially if and when it is combined with other information collected by government agencies (employment records, health records, government benefits, etc.). While we must not be alarmist, it is also important to point out that the information collected is potentially significant, necessitating strong safeguards and clear regulations on its collection, sharing/disclosure, retention and eventual use.

Clear delineations on the use and/or sharing of the exit data collected would be important to prevent national security over-reach. The Canadian government regularly engages in sharing data between departments, including with national security agencies. While the government assures us that there are clear rules in place, there is reason to be concerned about the sharing of Canadians’ private information for purposes unbeknownst to the traveler.

For example, we are concerned this type of data could be added in bulk to CSIS datasets created with Bill C-59, creating a massive archive of the travels of Canadians who are not direct subjects of national security investigations.

This also raises questions under the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, which introduced a broad new definition of “acts that undermine the security of Canada.” A person could see their information shared by the CBSA with CSIS, the RCMP or other agencies without having been suspected of (or having committed) a crime.

I’d like to share a timely example. In recent years we have seen cases of both CSIS and the RCMP surveilling and even developing profiles on peaceful protesters. Many of these people are engaged on issues that cross national borders, and may even travel for protests – think of those who joined the protests at Standing Rock, or even the Women’s March in Washington. The mass collection of travel information would easily allow for a new data point to be added to these profiles which, we must remember, have been criticized and discontinued when brought to light.

The Canadian government also shares intelligence with other jurisdictions. We are concerned that Canadians’ travel information will be shared with foreign intelligence agencies that can then use the information as they wish, despite attempts to seek assurances. Such information sharing is at the heart of the cases of people like Mr. Arar, Mr. Almalki, Mr. Elmaati and Mr. Nurredin, who all suffered unjust imprisonment and torture abroad.

Finally, we have not seen evidence or statistics from the government showing that there are growing security risks that would necessitate this kind of increase in en masse data collection.

We believe the best solution would be to not collect travelers’ data en-masse, since restrictions in C-21 could be negated by powers granted in other legislation. Instead, we believe that security agencies should focus efforts on improving data collection on an as-needed basis. We therefore are opposed to the provisions of Bill C-21 that would lead to the default collection of all travelers’ information by the CBSA.

But barring that, a few actions could be taken to mitigate this risk:

  • First, a clause clearly detailing under what circumstances and for what purposes the information collected by the CBSA will be shared with security agencies (domestic and foreign).
  • Second, we were glad to see a limit on the retention period for travelers’ data was put in place. However, 15 years remains too long a time limit. An official from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner pointed out during the study in the House of Commons that while the OPC agreed to a 15 year limit, they remain unclear as to why that is necessary. At a minimum, the government must explain why such information would be needed for 15 years, and, if they cannot, the retention period should be further reduced.
  • Third, Canadians must have a method of identifying if the information being held is accurate, and if it is discovered to be inaccurate that there is a clear method to correct it. We therefore recommend that a system be added allowing individuals to request the information about their travels that the CBSA holds, and to request corrections as necessary.
  • Finally, we would also recommend that an independent and specific review body be established for the CBSA.

We understand that the collection of exit data is being debated internationally and becoming the norm in the international community. However, we believe that Canada can also lead by example by acting to protect travelers’ rights.

For more details on the bill, read our full brief.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. Here at ICLMG, we are working very hard to protect and promote human rights and civil liberties in the context of the so-called “war on terror” in Canada. We do not receive any financial support from any federal, provincial or municipal governments or political parties.

You can become our patron on Patreon and get rewards in exchange for your support. You can give as little as $1/month (that’s only $12/year!) and you can unsubscribe at any time. Any donations will go a long way to support our work.panel-54141172-image-6fa93d06d6081076-320-320You can also make a one-time donation or donate monthly via Paypal by clicking on the button below. On the fence about giving? Check out our Achievements and Gains since we were created in 2002. Thank you for your generosity!
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ICLMG Submission to the UN Committee Against Torture

Canada’s report on its implementation of the Convention Against Torture will be examined by the United Nations’ Committee Against Torture (CAT) during its 65th session from November 12 to December 7, 2018.

The ICLMG asserts that several Canadian policies, practices and cases contravene multiple provisions of the Convention Against Torture. We thus submitted a report to the CAT and urged the Committee to use it in formulating questions, comments, observations and recommendations in its evaluation of Canada’s report.

Our report contains concerns regarding:

  • Anti-terrorism and national security legislation.
  • The security certificate regime – notably the urgent situation of Mohamed Harkat, who faces deportation to Algeria where he risks detention, torture and death.
  • The ministerial directives on information obtained through torture.
  • Consular services – notably the case of Canadian Abousfian Abdelrazik who was detained at the request of Canadian agents and allegedly tortured in Sudan, and who is currently attempting to obtain justice and redress through a civil suit that the federal government recently managed to delay indefinitely.
  • The extradition law – notably the case of Hassan Diab, who is now seeking an independent public inquiry into his ordeal.
  • The case of Omar Khadr – notably that Canada has not yet provided the full redress recommended by the Committee and required by the Convention. ICLMG and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) have sent a joint submission specifically about Omar Khadr. You can read it here.
  • Accountability mechanisms for state security agencies.
  • The ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.

Read our full report here.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. Here at ICLMG, we are working very hard to protect and promote human rights and civil liberties in the context of the so-called “war on terror” in Canada. We do not receive any financial support from any federal, provincial or municipal governments or political parties.

You can become our patron on Patreon and get rewards in exchange for your support. You can give as little as $1/month (that’s only $12/year!) and you can unsubscribe at any time. Any donations will go a long way to support our work.panel-54141172-image-6fa93d06d6081076-320-320You can also make a one-time donation or donate monthly via Paypal by clicking on the button below. On the fence about giving? Check out our Achievements and Gains since we were created in 2002. Thank you for your generosity!
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Canada Continues to Ignore Obligation to Investigate Omar Khadr Torture, and to Act to Prevent Future Abuses

OTTAWA, October 15, 2018 – The Canadian government continues to neglect its obligations to investigate and bring to justice those complicit in the torture and illegal sentencing of Omar Khadr, to fully apologize, and to ensure such an incident does not happen again, according to two leading Canadian civil liberties organizations in a new report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT).

Although compensation was paid, the redress necessary to prevent recurrence and restore the dignity, reputation and rights of Omar Khadr have not been provided. Canada has yet to investigate and disclose the facts, fully acknowledge its responsibility or clearly apologize for the acts and omissions of Canadian officials that contributed to the torture and ill treatment, prolonged arbitrary detention, denial of due process and illegal sentencing of Omar Khadr in Guantanamo Bay prison. These issues are raised in a report submitted today to the CAT by Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG).

“When Canadian officials participate in the torture and illegal detention and sentencing of a citizen, the Convention against Torture requires Canada to ensure both the rehabilitation of the victim and an investigation aimed at identifying and holding accountable those responsible,” says Gail Davidson of LRWC.

In response to a previous joint 2012 report filed by LRWC and the ICLMG, the CAT found that the Canadian government must “ensure that [Omar Khadr] receives appropriate redress for human rights violations that the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled he experienced.”

“Canadian officials have full knowledge of the torture and other grave rights violations suffered by Omar Khadr during more than 10 years in the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison” says Tim McSorley of the ICLMG. “All that time, they have never made efforts to fully investigate or bring to justice those who were complicit in his interrogation and torture. Instead they have falsely portrayed him as a dangerous person deserving of the most brutal rights violations.”

In its 2012 report, the CAT also recommended concrete steps that Canada should take to ensure that no other Canadian citizen suffers the same fate and that Canada live up to its obligations under the Convention against Torture. These included incorporating all provisions of the Convention into law, and educating the judiciary and the public about Canada’s obligations.

Despite having this report for the last five years, the Canadian government has failed to address these recommendations.

“Canada’s inaction on this case is alarming and contravenes the Convention and the rule of law. It signals a refusal to investigate, punish and fully redress the involvement of Canadian officials in torture and other prohibited treatment of a Canadian citizen.” says Gail Davidson of LRWC.

Together, LRWC and the ICLMG are calling on the government, among other things, to:

  • Establish a Public Commission of Inquiry to investigate, identify those responsible and make recommendations to remedy the acts and omissions of Canadian officials that contributed to violations of Omar Khadr’s rights, and to hold those involved accountable;
  • Educate and train law enforcement personnel, lawyers, judges, prison officials, medical personnel and others who may be involved in the treatment of detained persons about duties under the Convention;
  • Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention;
  • Enact legislation to put in place procedures for: complaints of torture and/or ill treatment by State and non-state actors; investigation of complaints and identification of suspects; and prosecution of suspects;
  • Allow those tortured outside of Canada to bring suit within Canadian courts.

The report and recommendations can be read online here [PDF].

The ICLMG has also submitted a full report covering other aspects of Canada’s contraventions of the Convetion Against Torture. Read it here.

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