Appearance before the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence on Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Customs Act

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March 30, 2009
Ottawa, Ontario

Statement by Carman Baggaley
Strategic Privacy Advisor

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Good afternoon, my name is Carman Baggaley.  I am a Strategic Privacy Advisor with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

I am pleased to be here to discuss Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Customs Act.

Our interest in the Bill is based on our Office’s long standing interest in the collection of personal information about passengers and crew members entering Canada and more generally we have an interest in the aviation safety and national security measures that have been introduced that have an impact on travel.

Section 107.1 of the Customs Act gives CBSA the authority to collectAdvanced Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) information.

Our Office had a number of concerns when the API/PNR Program was first announced.  The Minister of National Revenue who was in charge of the Program at that time made a number of changes in April 2003 that addressed many of our concerns.

Bill S-2 proposes to amend section 107.1 that authorizes the collection of passenger information and it amends the Governor in Council’s regulation making authority with respect to the collection of this information

Our understanding is the Bill addresses when this information has to be provided to CBSA and it addresses the issue of who has to provide this information.

Bill S-2 does not appear to increase the amount of passenger information being collected or the number of people from whom such information is collected.  Nor does it increase the sharing of API/PNR information. Since limiting the collection of personal information is an important component of protecting privacy we are pleased with the overall direction of Bill S-2.

Our Office does not think the Bill increases or exacerbates the privacy issues related to the collection of passenger information.

On the contrary, the Bill addresses security concerns by focusing primarily on the entry of goods into Canada and by clarifying the search powers of customs officers in customs controlled area.   This focus is positive from a privacy perspective.

Enhancing security is an objective we fully support and we welcome legislation that attempts to achieve this objective without relying on the increased collection of personal information.

Thank you

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