New Bill Threatens Privacy, Liberty and Citizenship

Bill C-44 was tabled by Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney. The Bill named, An Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other Acts will have large repercussions on privacy and Canadian citizenship. On January 28th it was reported back to the House without amendment and it received concurrence at the Report Stage in the House of Commons. A motion was also passed on that day in order to allocate no more than one further sitting day for debate of C-44 at both the report stage and third reading.

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B.C.’s Privacy Commissioner Releases Report Suggesting Improvements for Reporting of Data Breaches

A recent report by B.C.’s privacy commissioner claims that there is room for improvement in the provincial government’s approach to reporting privacy violations and suspected data breaches. In her report, Elizabeth Denham said “the government system of managing privacy breaches is solid.” The government has a firm foundation for addressing privacy violations, and breaches are corrected relatively quickly and effectively.

However, recent reporting numbers indicate that there is progress to be made by the province in the area of openly reporting both breaches and suspected violations. Of the nearly 3,000 breaches documented from April 2010 to December 2013 (an average of three breaches per business day), only one per cent were relayed to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. In the report, Denham recommended that the government “raise the threshold of when to report to [her] office.” Denham also commented on the possibility of recommending changes to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act “to notify individuals and her office when significant privacy breaches occur.”

The report noted that most of the disclosed breaches were preventable, occurred due to human error, and affected only one or two persons. The recommendations in the report proposed that the government implement a continuous improvement process, conduct internal auditing, and provide training for staff.

The Commissioner’s insight also raises the question of whether the reporting of such breaches (both to appropriate authorities and to those affected) should be mandatory.

To access the full report of the B.C. Privacy Commissioner, click here.


Bali Nine Update: Indonesia to Execute Two Australian Citizens

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran face execution by firing squad after Indonesian President Joko Widodo rejected their pleas for clemency.

Australian citizens Chan and Sukumaran are considered to be the ringleaders of the Bali Nine, a group that attempted to smuggle 8.2 kg of heroin from Bali into Australia. In 2005, the group was apprehended at the Denpasar airport after the Australian federal police alerted Indonesian authorities.

Indonesia faces criticism from the international community for resuming executions in 2013, following a four year hiatus. Both Brazil and the Netherlands recalled their ambassadors after Indonesia executed six drug offenders in January 2015. President Joko Widodo justifies Indonesia’s use of capital punishment, noting that the country faces a “drug emergency.” The President promised to execute 20 more drug offenders before the year’s end.

While capital punishment remains legal in Indonesia, many States have abandoned the practice. Amnesty International called Indonesia’s return to capital punishment “seriously regressive.”

Counsel for the accused, Julian McMahon, is launching an application for a judicial review of the entire legal process.


N.W.T. Francophones Apply to Supreme Court to Hear School Case

The francophone parents association in the Northwest Territories (“NWT”) plans to apply for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada in order to secure an expansion of and greater control over francophone education in the territory. In 2012, a NWT’s judge ordered that the Government of the Northwest Territories to pay for an expansion to the number of francophone classrooms available. This order was overturned by the Court of Appeal for the Northwest Territories in early 2015.

In addition to their hopes of a restoration of the trial decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, the francophone parents association also seek change in the admissions process to francophone schools. Instead of leaving this administrative power with the government, the francophone parents association believes that the francophone school board should make these decisions.

A similar case involving Yukon’s francophone population recently finished presenting arguments before the Supreme Court of Canada. The decision of this case will likely provide a strong guidance, if not a determinative answer, to the similar issues being raised in the NWT.

Click here for more information

Australian government intimidates journalists reporting on immigration issues

Over the past 12 months, journalists reporting on the federal government’s asylum-seeker policies have been repeatedly referred to the Australian federal police (AFP) by federal government agencies in attempts to uncover confidential sources and whistleblowers.

Almost every referral made to the AFP by federal government agencies “for unauthorised disclosure of commonwealth information” since September 2013 has been directly related to immigration reporting by journalists. At least eight of these referrals to the police were made on the subject of asylum seeker stories many of which have been materialized into active police investigations.

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Battle for Burnaby Mountain: Part Three (The Protestors)

To read more about the National Energy Board hearings and the City of Burnaby’s legal challenges, read Parts One and Two of this series.

Public protests against the Kinder Morgan pipeline have been making news since September, when workers first cut down trees as part of they survey work. Since then protestors have grown in numbers, and the standoff reached an apex in November when Kinder Morgan won an injunction from the BC Supreme Court. The court ordered protestors to stay away, starting on November 16, from certain areas in which Kinder Morgan was conducting survey work or risk being arrested (2014 BCSC 2133). The BCSC found an injunction to be necessary, and relied on the distinction between legitimate protest involving freedom of expression and that of unlawful activity, as set out in MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. v. Simpson ([1996] 2 SCR 1048). The court found that while there would be some harm to the rights of the protestors, Kinder Morgan’s interests as a private member would be more severely and irreparably harmed, given the substantial costs and potential loss of revenue associated with the delays caused by the protests. A more complete analysis of the legal arguments and defenses presented by both sides can be found here. Read the rest of this entry »

BCCLA + John Howard Society Take Federal Government to Court Over Solitary Confinement in Prisons

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the John Howard Society are suing the federal government over the use of solitary confinement in Canadian prisons, describing the practice as “cruel and unusual” in the lawsuit announced Monday morning in Vancouver. Read the rest of this entry »

After Paris, UK’s “Snooper’s Charter” Back on the Table

Shortly after the attacks in Paris, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, is one of many around the world calling for increased police powers to monitor the activities of those who may pose a threat to domestic security. He told reporters that he is “not particularly bothered with this civil liberties stuff”.

Johnson is mirroring the sentiments of the Conservative government, who have plans to revive the controversial Communications Data Bill. The Bill is known as the “Snooper’s Charter” as it would allow the government to monitor and store internet and mobile communications from all UK citizens for a full year.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has come out against the Bill, worrying that it would confer too many powers. While advocating for a change in the existing laws, he says there are other ways to “identify the needle without inferring guilt on the whole of the haystack”.

Battle for Burnaby Mountain: Part Two (National Energy Board and Court Jurisdiction)

See the last blog post for more details about the protracted battle that has been taking place between the National Energy Board and the City of Burnaby.

The City of Burnaby, under the leadership of Mayor Corrigan, has been fighting its own legal battle against Kinder Morgan. Back in November, the National Energy Board ruled that the city bylaws were unenforceable against Kinder Morgan. Since then, the City filed for leave to appeal the NEB decision to the BC Court of Appeal (2014 BCCA 465).  The BCCA refused to grant leave for an appeal on November 27th, finding that the matter should properly be dealt with by the Federal Court of Appeal. In late December, the Federal Court of Appeal also denied the City’s request to appeal the NEB decision, although allegedly no reason for this denial was given. The City of Burnaby’s lawyer, Gregory McDade, Q.C, has been reported as saying “We say that a federally appointed [National Energy Board] has no legal power to strike down [city] bylaws.  It’s never happened in Canadian history.  It’s never happened in Canadian law”. It is unclear whether the City of Burnaby will return to the BC Court of Appeal once again, however it would appear that all legal options have not yet been exhausted.

On January 16th, the City, as an intervener, submitted 200 pages of additional questions to the National Energy Board. In a press release statement, Mayor Corrigan claimed the questions were in response to Kinder Morgan’s 15,000-page proposal, and that they focused on emergency response, environmental impacts, and negative impacts to citizen health and safety. Read the rest of this entry »

Tensions Escalate in the Manus Island Detention Centre

The Manus Island detention centre is an Australian-run offshore processing base for individuals seeking asylum in Australia. Located in Northern Papua New Guinea, the detention centre was created in response to growing numbers of refugee claimants attempting to enter Australia without proper documentation.

In 2013, the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea introduced the Regional Resettlement Arrangement — colloquially known as the PNG Solution. The PNG Solution prevented refugee claimants from gaining entry to Australia. Instead, the claimants would be re-settled in Papua New Guinea, provided they were, in fact, genuine refugees. Amnesty International “strongly condemn[ed]” the PNG Solution, and stated that the Australian “Prime Minster has shown his willingness to pay any financial costs to bypass humanitarian obligations.”

Beginning in February 2014, reports surfaced regarding the conditions endured by refugee claimants in the Manus Island detention centre. In response to claims of assault, self-harm, medical issues, and allegations of sexual abuse, combined with the murder of Iranian refugee, Reza Barati, human rights groups demanded an independent investigation by the Australia Federal Police (AFP). The AFP refused, claiming that the Royal Papua New Guinea Police was “the most appropriate law enforcement organisation to investigate the allegation.”

Currently, tensions in the Manus Island detention centre have escalated. Protesting asylum-seekers have barricaded the detention centre, preventing staff from entering. As many as 700 detainees are on a hunger strike, and several individuals have sewn their lips shut.

The refugee claimants are protesting the possibility of being re-located in Papua New Guinea, and claim that their lives would be in danger.

The situation continues to evolve. For a current news release, see here.

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