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Letter from the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia to the Minister of National Revenue

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The Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, David Loukidelis, sent the following letter to the Honourable Elinor Caplan, Minister of National Revenue, supporting the position of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada on CCRA's plans to establish a massive "Big Brother" database on the foreign travel activities of all law-abiding Canadians.

October 3, 2002

The Honourable Elinor Caplan
Minister of National Revenue
555 Mackenzie Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario K1A OL5

Dear Minister Caplan:

Canada Customs and Revenue Agency ("CCRA") - Air Traveller Surveillance Database - OIPC File No. 16234

I write to add my voice to the chorus of concern regarding CCRA's plan to place all Canadians under surveillance through the air traveller surveillance database described in the September 26, 2002 letter to you from George Radwanski, the federal Privacy Commissioner. I agree with the compelling arguments made in his September 26 letter and urge you to heed them.

I have read your response to him, as well as the response from Rob Wright. Neither response comes anywhere close to answering the cogent analysis my federal colleague has presented. Among other things, your position on the third element of the analysis is troubling. In arguing that this unprecedented, open-ended surveillance of Canadian citizens is proportional to the security benefit that is to be derived, you said that the "sort of catastrophe that can be brought about by weapons of mass destruction is without a doubt justification for keeping this information." This response mocks the concept of proportionality that underpins s. 1 of the "Charter of Rights and Freedoms" and amounts to a bold justification for even more egregious state actions.

The CCRA's program of surveillance is over-broad and unnecessarily targets innocent Canadians. This program, which will be implemented without the necessary close scrutiny by Parliament and the public, should be dealt with as my federal colleague suggests.

In closing, I deplore the lamentable personal attack on George Radwanski attributed in the October 1, 2002 Globe and Mail to Derik Hodgson, your spokesman. George Radwanski does not need me to defend him, but the baseless personal invective attributed to Derik Hodgson is no substitute for the dispassionate, rational policy debate that is necessary for far-reaching initiatives of this kind.

Yours sincerely,

David Loukidelis
Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia

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