United States International Privacy Privacy Deficit Free & Open Internet

Huge Coalition unites to demand end to Spy Agency Cash Grab - MPs should stop wasting billions spying on law-abiding Canadians

Budget Day Action will urge MPs to side with taxpayers against CSEC waste; group warns spying on innocent Canadians hurts democracy at home and Canada’s reputation abroad

The groups speaking out are members of the Protect Our Privacy Coalition, which is working for effective legal measures to safeguard Canadians’ privacy from government spies. The coalition includes over 45 organizations from across the political spectrum, along with over a dozen leading academics, privacy experts, and tens of thousands of Canadians. Coalition members are launching a new tool (http://TheDayWeFightBack.ca) to make it easy for Canadians to tell their MP to take a stand against CSEC’s online spying and wasteful spending.

OpenMedia.ca will report back to local voters to let them know which MPs are committed to safeguard their privacy.

The larger global campaign includes prominent web platforms such as Reddit and Mozilla. More information about the international campaign can be found at http://thedaywefightback.com

Here’s what members of the Protect Our Privacy Coalition say about why they’re taking part in today’s action:

  • “Canadians are wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on a bloated spy bureaucracy that is monitoring our private lives,” says OpenMedia.ca Executive Director Steve Anderson. “It’s time for common sense to prevail. We need to rein in CSEC and other security agencies before they get even more out of control. That’s why we’re calling on MPs to make a firm commitment to introduce pro-privacy legislation to protect the privacy of all residents of Canada.”
  • Micheal Vonn, B.C. Civil Liberties Association Policy Director, said: “Digital surveillance is becoming the most pressing human rights issue of the twenty-first century. What some have called ‘the battle for the free internet’ is all about the tools required for safeguarding our rights and democracy: freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press; privacy, security and governmental accountability.”
  • "Surveillance can and does threaten human rights, " Electronic Frontier Foundation International Rights Director Katitza Rodriguez said. "Even laws intended to protect national security or combat crime will inevitably lead to abuse if left unchecked and kept secret. States must apply human rights standards to digital surveillance techniques through transparency, rigorous oversight and privacy protections that transcend borders."
  • Cindy Blackstock, First Nations child advocate, said: “The least we can do to honour those who so courageously fought for freedom during times of war is to not let the government give our freedoms away during times of peace. ”
  • "Without legitimate guidance and effective authority, we stand to lose the trust of Canadian youth as we head into the knowledge economy. This clear and present danger threatens our role on the global stage and threatens the competitiveness of our nation as well as the safety of our future leaders," said Samantha Kemp-Jackson, Director of Global Communications, KnowledgeFlow Cybersafety Education.
  • Sukanya Pillay, Acting Executive Director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said: “Intelligence agencies must be subject to restraints, effective review, and integrated oversight to ensure accountability – CCLA has long argued for implementation of Justice O’Connor’s recommendations on this issue. CCLA has also expressed concern over weaknesses in existing legislation that must be corrected to stop unjustifiable government intrusions into the privacy rights of individuals. The right to privacy is essential in a democratic state.”
  • The National Council of Canadian Muslims said: “In 2006, after more than 2.5 years and tens of millions of dollars spent on the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relations to Maher Arar, the Honourable Justice Dennis O’Connor recommended that the federal government create and implement a comprehensive, independent, and robust oversight body for national security agencies along with appropriate recourse and redress mechanisms to hold those in authority to account.

    “Eight years later this vital recommendation has not been implemented. Parliament must take real action to guard against the unwarranted and unnecessary encroachments on the hard-won civil liberties and privacy rights of Canadians.”

  • "The government and security services are trying to hide the mass surveillance of their own people by misinterpreting the meaning and importance of metadata," said BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association Executive Director Vincent Gogolek. "If we can't rein in this Cold War-era spying, let's at least bring the laws they operate under into the 21st century.”
  • Paul Finch, Vice President, BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU), said: “It is unconscionable that in an era of fiscal austerity and severe economic hardship on the west coast and across the country, the Federal government is increasing funding to surveillance programs that are violating the privacy rights of Canadians.”
  • Mike Gifford and Mike Mallett of OpenConcept Consulting Inc., said: “OpenConcept strongly believes in voluntary sharing of information, but does not support the theft of private information by governments, private industry, or any other body through spying or any other means."
  • Tamir Israel, Staff Lawyer, CIPPIC, said: "Privacy is not just an increasingly important information right that permits individuals to better navigate an increasingly complex and digital world, but it is essential to an effective democracy. If not checked, the recent excesses of our state surveillance apparatus will have negative implications for us all."
  • Tara Mahoney, Creative Director of GenWhy Media, said: "Instead of spending billions of tax dollars spying on innocent Canadians, we would prefer the government use some of that money to build a national cultural of trust through citizen engagement and collective decision-making around surveillance policy. That is why we are fighting back."
  • Claudiu Popa, CEO of Informatica Corporation, said: "If monitoring and surveillance of public networks will continue with the precision indicated, we need some kind of federal guidance to assist us in carrying out our business of providing information security-as-a-service to Canadian corporations. Without such guidance, our clients are exposing themselves and their customers to security - and in particular, confidentiality - breaches along with the automatic failure to comply with Canadian privacy legislation. A bit of verifiable openness and transparency about these programs would go a long way towards restoring some public trust.”
  • Stuart Trew, Trade Campaigner with The Council of Canadians, said: “It is clear from targets like the G20 summit in Toronto, international trade negotiations and Brazilian mining regulators that Canada’s spying program is a kind of perverse public service for Canadian multinational corporations. Harper’s subsidized corporate espionage is a waste of public money that makes none of us safer while further harming Canada’s reputation abroad.”
  • Laurence Kearley, Privacy Lawyer and President of the Canadian Access and Privacy Association, said: “The Canadian Access and Privacy Association is taking part in this Day of Action because, as Canada’s largest and oldest organization of access to information and privacy professionals, we are concerned about the continual erosion of Canadians’ privacy rights especially as evidenced by the recent revelations about the illegal activities of CSEC here in Canada and its questionable cooperation with the NSA.”
  • Gwen Bird, President of BC Library Association, said: "Protection of individual privacy is a core issue for libraries and for the BC Library Association. Libraries have a long and proud history of protecting the privacy of our borrowers. In the digital era this is more important, and more complex, than ever. With so many library resources and services now delivered over the network, we need to know there's private space for ideas to be explored and expressed. It's just critical for free intellectual exchange and cultural development that is the raison d'être of libraries."
  • Connie Fournier from principled conservative group Free Dominion said: “Opposition to government spying should cross partisan lines. If you opposed the gun registry because it was expensive and intrusive to the privacy of long gun owners, you should be strongly opposing this government putting billions of dollars into a spy palace for an agency that is unapologetically intruding on the privacy of us all.”
  • Saeed Ashrafinia, Founder, Critically Thinking Canadian, said: "This a human rights issue that crosses party lines and one that requires 21st century thinking to address our 21st century issues. Instead, we rest the entire legal authority of our CSEC on the consultation of a part-time, retired judge making decisions for all Canadians in secret. Democracy dies behind closed doors so as part of this day of action we at Critically Thinking Canadians have joined the Protect Our Privacy Coalition in demanding that our elected officials bring our spy machine out from the shadows."
  • Fabian Rodriguez, president of FACIL, pour l'appropriation collective de l'informatique libre, said: "As free computing advocates, FACIL members and sympathizers think that the problem of online privacy is as much about knowing what is actually being done with our taxes as with our own digital devices. We need to act on all fronts: by putting an end to publicly-financed mass surveillance, by reasserting the primacy of our human right to privacy, by establishing new legal safeguards against abuses, and also by rejecting the proprietary technologies that make it impossible to know what the software being run on our computers actually does."

CSEC has recently been the subject of a series of stunning revelations highlighting how it is systematically collecting the private data of thousands of law-abiding Canadians. Experts have highlighted how the type of data CSEC collects can reveal detailed information about Canadians, including their medical history, political leanings, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and financial state.

CSEC was also shown to have facilitated a massive, illegal U.S. spying operation on Canadian soil during the Toronto G-20 summit. Canada’s international reputation has also been damaged by CSEC, following reports that it had spied on the private communications of Brazil’s mining and industry ministry, prompting Brazil’s president to denounce Canada on Twitter.

Over 28,000 Canadians have pledged their support to a campaign aimed at stopping all illegal spying on Canadians, with more signing on every day at http://OurPrivacy.ca

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.

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 at 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, the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), is about to receive a new taxpayer supported headquarters that will cost $4.2 billion to build and operate - making it the most expensive government building ever built.

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.

The Coalition believes that: "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."



David Christopher
Communications Manager, OpenMedia.ca
[email protected]

More Information

  • New Snowden docs show U.S. spied during G20 in Toronto. Source: CBC News
  • Five highlights from the Canada-Brazil spying revelations. [Source: The Globe and Mail]
  • Privacy watchdog on spy agency’s data collection: ‘We want to find out more’. [Source: CBC News.mail.com/news/politics/privacy-watchdog-on-spy-agencys-data-collection-we-want-to-find-out-more/article12459998/">The Globe And Mail]
  • Canada’s spy agency may have illegally targeted Canadians: watchdog. [Source: National Post]
  • Inside Canada's top-secret billion-dollar spy palace. [Source: CBC News]
  • Data breach protocols deficient in 9 federal departments, watchdog finds. - [Source: CBC News]
  • Lawful Access back on the agenda this Fall? - Michael Geist.
  • The secretive CSEC agency has a staff of more than 2,000 and a budget of about $400 million. [Source: CBC News]
  • Surveillance expert Ron Deibert on the threat spy agencies pose for citizens.
  • Internet Law expert Michael Geist on why Canadians should be concerned about government spying.
  • Privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart says there are significant concerns about the scope of information that CSEC are reported to collect. [Source: CBC News]
  • In this article, The Globe and Mail describes the revelations about Canadian government spying as “disturbing and unacceptable”
  • This document, obtained by The Globe through Access to Information, shows how Minister MacKay authorized a top secret program to data-mine global ‘metadata’ in 2011.

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