Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 21:24 EDT

PEN Canada concerned by metadata surveillance

June 12, 2013

TORONTO, June 12, 2013 /CNW/ – PEN Canada is seriously concerned by
recent media reports which indicate that the government of Canada has
continued to monitor the phone calls and online activity of Canadian
citizens despite the concerns of former Communications Security
Establishment Canada (CSEC) Commissioner Justice Charles Gonthier.

On June 10, 2013 the Globe and Mail reported that Defence Minister Peter MacKay issued a ministerial
directive on November 21, 2011, reinstating arrangements that enable
CSEC to capture and analyze “metadata” from every phone conversation
and Internet-based activity undertaken by Canadian citizens. Although
the data does not allow CSEC to eavesdrop directly on such
communications, PEN believes that its collection nevertheless
constitutes an unreasonable intrusion into the activities protected by
the Privacy Act and Charter, and generates information that is ripe for misuse by domestic law
enforcement agencies.

“Democratic governments that wish to surveil their citizenry must not do
so by bureaucratic stealth,” said Philip Slayton, chair of PEN Canada’s
National Affairs Committee. “They must explain, to public satisfaction,
the national security imperatives for doing so. Until the government of
Canada is prepared to justify such surveillance it should cease the
collection of metadata forthwith.”

PEN believes that such wholesale surveillance is fundamentally
incompatible with Canadian law and flies in the face of Commissioner
Gonthier’s recommendation that CSEC display “a fundamental respect for
the rule of law and for democracy [including] a reasonable expectation
of privacy for all Canadians.”

In 2008 the Commissioner proposed that the National Defence Act be
amended to require that ministerial authorizations be issued “for the
sole purpose of obtaining foreign intelligence.” A year earlier he
expressed concern that “characteristics of contemporary communications
technology mean that the interception of communications by CSEC runs
the inherent risk of acquiring the private communications of Canadians.
It is for this reason that a ministerial authorization is sought for
this collection.” The spirit of the Commissioner’s recommendation that
the gathering of sensitive information be restricted to a necessary
minimum, is clearly violated by Min. MacKay’s authorization of
all-embracing surveillance measures.

A few months ago the Canadian public rejected provisions in Bill C-30
which would have allowed the government to engage in broad Internet
surveillance without securing special warrants. The indiscriminate
collection of metadata from the private communications of law-abiding
Canadians is no less Orwellian. PEN urges the government to propose and
debate the national security implications of such data gathering
through accepted democratic processes instead of imposing what amounts
to universal surveillance by ministerial fiat.

PEN Canada is a nonpartisan organization of writers that works with
others to defend freedom of expression as a basic human right, at home
and abroad. PEN Canada promotes literature, fights censorship, helps
free persecuted writers from prison, and assists writers living in
exile in Canada. (pencanada.ca


Source: PR Newswire