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Appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance on Part IV, Bill C-43 (Economic Action Plan 2014, No 2)

November 24, 2014
Ottawa, Ontario

Opening Statement by Daniel Therrien
Privacy Commissioner of Canada

(Check against delivery)

Good afternoon, Mister Chair, and Members of the Committee.

Thank you for the invitation to present my views on the possible privacy implications of Part IV, Bill C-43, the Economic Action Plan 2014, No. 2

I have provided written submissions on various parts of the Bill, and would like to summarize my comments as follows:

With respect to Division 17, which contains amendments to the DNA Identification Act, I agree that society is well served by intensifying humanitarian efforts to locate missing persons and identify human remains.  Creating a DNA databank is a reasonable way of achieving these objectives.

However, I have some reservations about the extent to which the Bill permits the cross matching of the proposed new indices for these humanitarian purposes with the existing crime scene index (CSI) and convicted offender index (COI), which serve law enforcement purposes.

When families provide the personal effects of the missing person or their own biological samples, they are doing so to find their missing loved one or to achieve a sense of closure.

While the Bill recognizes that the profiles of relatives can only be compared to the missing persons and human remains indices for these purposes, the profiles of missing persons should likewise be similarly restricted and not linked to the CSI and COI to serve law enforcement purposes.   If, however, the profiles of missing persons are to be matched against the CSI or COI, and any resulting matches to be used for law enforcement purposes, the relative who provided the personal effect of the missing person should be informed of, and consent to this matching.

I am also concerned about provisions that would increase information sharing with foreign states.  This again involves the cross matching of missing persons profiles with domestic and foreign crime scene profiles, potentially leading to  the investigation of an offence in a foreign state that may not be one under Canadian law.  I would therefore recommend that these provisions to increase such sharing be removed from the Bill.

Regarding Division 24, concerning amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Temporary Foreign Workers program, I am primarily concerned with expanded use and sharing of the Social Insurance Number (SIN), and enhanced authority for information sharing with the provinces.  While it is appropriate for Employment and Social Development Canada to use the SIN for employment-related purposes, the Bill is vague on the specifics of how the SIN will be handled, and it is not clear whether the SIN could be collected and shared beyond the employment context.  I would wish to be consulted on the content of the regulations, which will include details on the use of the SIN and enhanced authority to share information with provincial governments.  I would also recommend that any SIN-related privacy issues be identified in comprehensive Privacy Impact Assessments, and that any associated privacy risks be mitigated to the extent possible.

In terms of Divisions 6, 10, and 11, in my view, there do not appear to be significant privacy issues of concern raised in these sections.  Indeed, one amendment would allow the CRTC to impose on persons who provide telecommunications services (other than Canadian carriers) conditions to protect the privacy of persons using those services.  I view this as a positive move from a privacy perspective.

Divisions 9, 18, 27 and 28 appear to implicate some personal information.  However, it is not evident that they raise any significant privacy issues.

And with that, I welcome your questions.

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