Com­mis­sioner warns that new U.S. border search ini­tia­tives threaten pri­vacy of Cana­di­ans

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - JIM BRON­SKILL

Cana­dian pri­vacy could be im­per­illed by ap­par­ent U.S. plans to de­mand cell­phone and so­cial me­dia pass­words from for­eign vis­i­tors, a fed­eral watch­dog says.

In a let­ter to the House of Com­mons pub­lic safety committee, pri­vacy com­mis­sioner Daniel Ther­rien warns the re­cent pro­nounce­ments from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion could mean in­tru­sive searches — even at pre­clear­ance fa­cil­i­ties in Canada.

In Fe­bru­ary, U.S. Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John Kelly sug­gested at a hear­ing that Amer­i­can of­fi­cials could ask peo­ple en­ter­ing the U.S. about the In­ter­net sites they visit as well as pass­words to help as­sess their on­line ac­tiv­i­ties.

Kelly’s pro­posal prompted an Amer­i­can coali­tion of hu­man rights and civil lib­er­ties or­ga­ni­za­tions and ex­perts in se­cu­rity, tech­nol­ogy and the law to ex­press “deep con­cern.”

The Wall Street Jour­nal has re­ported that vis­i­tors to the U.S. could be forced to pro­vide cell­phone con­tacts and so­cial-me­dia pass­words. Cur­rently, pas­sen­gers fly­ing to Amer­i­can cities through eight ma­jor Cana­dian air­ports can be pre­cleared there by U.S. Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers.

The Com­mons pub­lic safety committee is study­ing leg­is­la­tion that would ex­pand pre­clear­ance oper­a­tions.

Un­der the bill, U.S. searches at pre­clear­ance fa­cil­i­ties would be gov­erned by Cana­dian law, in­clud­ing the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms.

But Ther­rien says those pro­tec­tions ap­pear to be hol­low be­cause they could not be en­forced in court due to im­mu­nity pro­vi­sions that sig­nif­i­cantly limit ac­cess to civil reme­dies for the ac­tions of U.S. border of­fi­cers car­ry­ing out pre­clear­ance du­ties.

In many sit­u­a­tions, Ther­rien says in the let­ter, “it would ap­pear that Cana­di­ans who wish to en­ter the U.S. will, at pre­clear­ance lo­ca­tions in Canada as well as at border points in the U.S., have to face the dif­fi­cult choice of ei­ther ac­cept­ing a search with­out grounds or for­go­ing their wish to travel to the U.S.”

Un­der long-stand­ing plans, pre­clear­ance is be­ing ex­panded to Billy Bishop Toronto City Air­port and Que­bec City’s Jean Lesage In­ter­na­tional Air­port, as well as for rail ser­vice in Mon­treal and Van­cou­ver.

In March, Canada and the U.S. agreed to bring pre­clear­ance to other, un­spec­i­fied lo­ca­tions.

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment says the pre­clear­ance ar­range­ments would strengthen se­cu­rity and pros­per­ity while en­sur­ing respect for the sovereignty of both coun­tries.

Ef­forts to move peo­ple and goods across the 49th par­al­lel more quickly and ef­fi­ciently have un­folded against a back­drop of un­cer­tainty fol­low­ing Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion.

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