News from ICLMG

Joint statement: Digital surveillance technologies and COVID-19 in Canada

The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group has joined a group of privacy experts and civil society organizations to release a set of principles for protecting the rights and privacy of people in Canada throughout the fight against COVID-19. The principles come at a critical time, with Google and Apple committing to tracking COVID-19 exposure through cell phone operating systems; Alberta having announced plans to use cell phone tracking to monitor quarantine compliance during COVID-19; and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirming that ‘all options are on the table.’

The full statement is below, or download PDF. You can also watch the video above.

The principles call for caution and restraint in any rollout of new emergency measures, such as data collection from telecom companies or location tracking to monitor the spread of the virus or enforce quarantines. They urge the government to prioritize other measures to keep people safe and in their homes first, and favour voluntary data sharing solutions, as has been proposed in the UK, over any non-voluntary data collection.

OpenMedia Executive Director Laura Tribe said, “The use of data will be critical in the fight against COVID-19, but we cannot resort to draconian surveillance without oversight or accountability. People in Canada are rightly concerned about how any kind of data tracking or surveillance powers brought in to tackle this emergency would impact our rights. There may be great pressure to adopt extraordinary measures in response to this situation, but the government must consider the cost to our privacy, values and human rights. How our government treats its citizens in this time of emergency will be one of the greatest tests of our democracy.”

Tim McSorley, National Coordinator at the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, said, “Canada is facing an unprecedented health crisis that requires unprecedented action to flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19. In their pursuit of this important goal, we urge Canadian officials at all levels to use restraint around surveillance activities that infringe on our most fundamental rights, including privacy, freedom of assembly and freedom of movement.

“As we have seen in other contexts, particularly the so-called War on Terror, in times of crisis new surveillance powers that are meant to be targeted and temporary can become widespread and permanent. Any powers must explicitly contain time-limits and public oversight, and it is crucial that any health-related surveillance be kept separate from law enforcement and intelligence activities.”

The letter urges the government of Canada to follow these seven principles when considering any kind of enhanced digital surveillance or data collection:

  1. Prioritize approaches which do not require any surveillance or data gathering to encourage people to stay at home;
  2. Due process for adopting any new powers;
  3. Favour consent in any data sharing initiatives;
  4. Put strict limits on data collection and retention;
  5. Put strict limits on use and disclosure;
  6. Oversight, transparency and accountability;
  7. Any surveillance efforts related to COVID-19 must not fall under the domain of security, law enforcement or intelligence agencies.

Read the full press release here [PDF].

Joint statement: Digital surveillance technologies and COVID-19 in Canada

April 15, 2020

As the Canadian government seeks to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the possibility of using smartphone tracking or other mass public data collection to track infections or ensure compliance with rules has been raised.

The pressure to adopt extraordinary measures in response to extraordinary situations is understandably high. But we must make sure to carefully consider the cost to our privacy, values and human rights. We must emphasize that any measures that amount to mass warrantless surveillance of identifiable people in Canada would not be a proportionate or reasonable response, even in these difficult times.

People in Canada are concerned about the possibility of invasive emergency measures, and for their potential to continue undermining our rights after the current crisis is over. Even in times of crisis, mass digital surveillance tools pose a unique and insidious threat to our fundamental values. No data set fully represents the world, and biases and flaws in data and the algorithms applied to it have been shown to disproportionately impact already marginalized communities in our society. There is also a real risk that they undermine public health measures by providing a false sense of security, or undermine trust in and disclosure to public institutions. It is therefore crucial that all discussions about enhanced surveillance take place transparently and openly, before any new measures are put in place.

We, the undersigned organizations and experts, urge the government of Canada to follow these seven principles when considering any kind of enhanced digital surveillance or data collection:

1. Prioritize approaches which do not require any surveillance or data gathering to encourage people to stay at home

Make full use of public education, financial assistance, and other options and support which will allow people in Canada to practice social distancing, and avoid infection, as well as testing at scale to identify people who have been infected. Any surveillance-based measures must only be relied on where demonstrably necessary and as a last resort.

2. Due process for adopting any new powers

Any new powers must be adopted through a legislative process, following transparent and open public debate. Invasive measures must be referred to the courts and the privacy commissioner for an assessment of their legality, effectiveness and proportionality. As the federal Privacy Act remains an inadequate and outdated instrument, data gathering must be accompanied by binding rules to ensure data minimization, strict necessity and proportionality. Such measures must be temporary, with a defined end date and review periods regularly scheduled. Ongoing reviews must be public and transparent, and must consider the impact and effectiveness of any new measures as well as their continued necessity.

3. Favour consent in any data sharing initiatives

In any government use of mass data technologies to address the pandemic, options that allow people the choice to volunteer their data must be strongly preferred to non-voluntary data collection. Voluntary measures must be truly voluntary, and free from coercion of any kind. Neither leaving location services on nor an agreement signed with their mobile provider on registration can be understood as providing this voluntary consent. Any voluntarily provided data must be subject to the same limitations and considerations of proportionality and use as all other data, and subject to ‘ongoing’ consent – ie, subject to withdrawal by the provider at a later date.

4. Put strict limits on data collection and retention

Any adopted measure must ensure that data collection is minimized, limited to collecting data that is strictly necessary for established public health considerations directly relating to the declared emergency, and proportionate, keeping in mind the sensitivity of the data being collected. Any data collected must be fully and promptly deleted as soon as it is no longer necessary to contain the pandemic.

5. Put strict limits on use and disclosure

The intended use of any collected data must be specifically and clearly defined, and that data should only be used for its intended purpose. All data must be de-identified and anonymized. Any data gathered must only be used for the public health purposes that justified its collection, and may only be disclosed to public health bodies. No data gathered through these measures can be used to achieve law enforcement or immigration objectives, or for commercial purposes, including in de-identified format.

6. Oversight, transparency and accountability

Any new rules or technology adopted during this period must have independent oversight, must be transparent to the public, and must provide options for recourse with regards to breaches, misuse, or other violations of rights. This independent oversight must be additionally empowered to remedy any inaccuracy or bias in any adopted measures, as many digital surveillance and analytic tools have been found to be deeply biased, particularly against marginalized groups.

7. Any surveillance efforts related to COVID-19 must not fall under the domain of security, law enforcement or intelligence agencies

The current pandemic situation is a public health crisis, not a matter of national security. Security, law enforcement and intelligence agencies must not be involved in any form of public health surveillance or data collection. Moreover, the line between the data held by Canada’s health and security establishments must be maintained throughout.

Sincerely,

OpenMedia
B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA)
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA)
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG)
Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC)

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 condemns repression, criminalization of Wet’suwet’en land defenders, supporters & journalists

The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) condemns the RCMP’s armed invasion of unceded Wet’suwet’en territory, and the ongoing repression and criminalization of Wet’suwet’en land defenders, their supporters and journalists.

The ICLMG is a coalition of 46 organizations across Canada, based in Ottawa on unceded Algonquin land. The ICLMG’s primary focus is on the impact of national security and anti-terrorism laws and activities on civil liberties and human rights in Canada and internationally.

The coalition has long-expressed its concerns about how national security is used to stigmatize and criminalize land defenders. The ICLMG opposes the increased use of language of “critical infrastructure” and “national security” to describe and justify the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline and the RCMP’s actions to enforce an injunction1 to remove Wet’suwet’en land defenders and their supporters from their territory. This language serves to position resource development and the extraction of fossil fuels as superseding Indigenous rights, and to paint the defense of those rights as threatening Canada’s “national security.”

It is also important to note that the language of “national security” and “critical infrastructure” can serve to trigger national security laws, particularly the Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act, allowing the disclosure of individuals’ private information by government departments with federal security agencies. While this sharing occurs in secret, it is reviewed annually by the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA), and we urge the NSIRA to pay particular attention to this issue in its upcoming work.

The ICLMG also condemns the RCMP’s portrayal of the peaceful opponents to the Coastal GasLink project as “radicalized” and the agency’s profiling of Indigenous land protectors through programs like Project SITKA, including several individuals connected with the Wet’suwet’en Healing Centre, camps and access point built on Wet’suwet’en territory. This language reflects an approach based on criminalization and linking land defenders to national security and terrorism threats, contradicting Canada’s stated commitment to reconciliation and upholding Indigenous rights.

These actions by the RCMP, and support by both the BC and federal governments, cannot be separated from the historical context of the RCMP’s predecessor, the North-West Mounted Police, being created as part of Canada’s colonial project in order to assert sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and their lands. For Canada to truly break with this history, it must immediately withdraw the RCMP and respect the Wet’suwet’en’s sovereignty over their territories.

The ICLMG also denounces the detention, removal and exclusion of journalists reporting on the conflict. Prohibiting journalists from carrying out their work during the RCMP’s armed invasion is a clear violation of free expression and press freedom, denying the press the ability to carry out its important work of ensuring accountability and transparency.

Finally, we share the grave concerns raised by the BC Civil Liberties Association, Union of BC Indian Chiefs and others in their complaints filed with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP. This includes condemning the “overbroad scope as well as inconsistent and arbitrary exercise of RCMP discretion in Wet’suwet’en territories.”2 As they write:

“The RCMP implementation and enforcement of the exclusion zone criminalizes and impedes the movement of Wet’suwet’en people, invited guests of the Wet’suwet’en, media, legal counsel as well as food and medical supplies.”3

And: “There is absolutely no legal precedent nor established legal authority for such an overbroad policing power associated with the enforcement of an injunction. The implementation and enforcement of the RCMP exclusion zone in Wet’suwet’en territory is unlawful.”4

The ICLMG believes that the security and safety of people living in Canada will be achieved through the respect of fundamental rights and liberties, including the respect and recognition of Indigenous rights, and not through the stigmatization of land defenders as “radicalized” threats and the use of armed invasions and arrests. In light of this, we call for an immediate withdrawal of the RCMP from Wet’suwet’en territory, and for the government to respect Wet’suwet’en law and the Hereditary Chiefs’ authority over their traditional territory.

For more information & to donate:
Unistoten Camp
Gidimt’en Access Point
RAVEN Trust Wet’suwet’en Legal Challenge Fund

——-

1 In its 1997 decision in Delgamuukw vs BC, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that constitutionally-protected Aboriginal title includes the right to use, enjoy, benefit from, occupy and pro-actively manage the land. Available at: https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/1569/index.do. See also: Hernandez, J. ‘’We still have title’: How a landmark B.C. court case set the stage for Wet’suwet’en protests”, CBC News, Feb. 13, 2020. Available at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/delgamuukw-court-ruling-significance-1.5461763; and Gunn, K. & B. McIvor, “The Wet’suwet’en, Aboriginal Title, and the Rule of Law: An Explainer”, First Peoples Law, Feb. 13, 2020. Available at: https://www.firstpeopleslaw.com/index/articles/438.php: “The Indian Act does not provide authority for a Chief and Council to make decisions about lands beyond the boundaries of the First Nation’s reserves. By contrast, the Hereditary Chiefs are responsible under Wet’suwet’en law and governance for making decisions relating to their ancestral lands.”

2 BCCLA letter to Michelaine Lahaie, Chairperson, Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, “Re: Policy Complaint Concerning RCMP Checkpoint on Morice West Forest Service Road,” Jan. 29, 2020. Available at: https://bccla.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/RCMP-Complaint-Public.pdf

3 Ibid.

4 BCCLA letter to Michelaine Lahaie, Chairperson, Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, “Re: Policy Complaint and Public Interest Investigation Concerning RCMP Exclusion Zone and RCMP Operations on Morice West Forest Service Road,” Feb. 9, 2020. Available at: https://bccla.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Policy-Complaint-Update-RCMP-Operations-in-Wetsuweten-2020.pdf

Event: “When Poverty Mattered” Book Launch & Talk

Thank you to everyone who were able to attend the talk!
If you were unable to be there, you can watch it here:


Thursday, January 30th, 2020
7pm to 9pm
338 Somerset Street West
(Enter through side entrance)
Free event – all welcome!

Author Paul Weinberg in conversation with
Tim McSorley, National Coordinator of the ICLMG

We’re excited to be co-organizing the Ottawa launch of When Poverty Mattered: Then and Now, by Paul Weinberg.

Paul will be in conversation with Tim McSorley, National Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, to discuss the history of national security surveillance of radical, progressive organizations and lessons that still resonate today. It will be a timely conversation, given recent laws allowing CSIS to engage in new, secret activities, as well as ongoing revelations of government surveillance and criminalization of activists. After a short discussion and reading, there will be a Q & A.

About the book

Founded in Toronto in 1968, the Praxis Corporation was a progressive research institute mandated to spark political discussion about a range of social issues, such as poverty, homelessness, anti-war activism, community activism and worker organization. Deemed a radical threat by the Canadian state, Praxis was put under RCMP surveillance. In 1970, Praxis’s office was burgled and burned to the ground. No arrests were made, but internal documents and records stolen from Praxis ended up in the hands of the RCMP Security Service. All this occurred as Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government shifted away from social spending and poverty reduction towards the economic regime of austerity and neoliberalism that we have today.

In When Poverty Mattered, Paul Weinberg combines insights gleaned from internal government documents, access to information requests and investigative journalism to provide both a history of radical politics in 1960s Canada and an illustration of misdeeds and dirty tricks the Canadian government orchestrated in order to disrupt activist organizations fighting for a more just society.

About Paul

Paul Weinberg has worked in journalism most of his life, primarily as a freelance writer. He has written for newspapers such as the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Daily Star and the Hamilton Spectator, weeklies including NOW Magazine and Eye Magazine, and a range of publications including the Report on Business, This Magazine and the CCPA Monitor. Currently living in Hamilton, he is editing an upcoming collection of articles about the City of Hamilton. And he spent a little over a decade researching his new book, When Poverty Mattered, Then and Now which he describes as combining the elements of history and investigative journalism.

“Anyone interested in the history of poverty and poor people’s movements should read this book.” — Gaétan Héroux, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

The venue is fully accessible. The bathrooms are gender neutral. The event will be in English but you will be able to ask questions in French.

Invite your friends and we hope to see you there!

Event co-organized with Octopus Books and Fernwood Publishing

More details: https://www.facebook.com/events/600965943978045/ & https://octopusbooks.ca/event/when-poverty-mattered-then-and-now

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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