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Ottawa, February 3, 2003 - The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has received the following letter from Mr. John Reynolds, M.P., Official Opposition House Leader. The letter is a copy of a letter Mr. Reynolds has sent to the Prime Minister on the subject of the Privacy Commissioner's Annual Report, which was tabled last week.
Friday, January 31, 2003
Dear Prime Minister:
As you know, on January 29, the Privacy Commissioner Mr. George Radwanski tabled his 2001-02 Annual Report to Parliament. In it he has expressed some genuine concerns about what he sees as unnecessary and even dangerous encroachments either put in place or proposed by your government in the wake of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and its effect on the security of our society.
When I was first asked about the particular concerns expressed in the Report about the use of air passenger manifests, I indicated that such information was necessary to combat the terrorist threats to this country and that as we are at war with such terrorism we need to take all necessary measures to protect ourselves. However, I did not, as has been reported in the press, dismiss out of hand the concerns expressed by the Privacy Commissioner about the use of such information for purposes other than direct combating of terrorism. The Commissioner has raised some real and valid claims in this regard, which in my view require further consideration by your government and the Parliament of Canada itself.
I would not want you or your Government to think from what I said that I disagreed with all the points Mr. Radwanski makes in his report. For instance, it is clear that he does not object to measures that are specifically aimed at improving security against potential terrorists. As he says, and quite correctly, at page 1 of the Overview to his report, "I have never once raised privacy objections against a single actual anti-terrorist security measure."
What the Privacy Commissioner objects to, and so has the Canadian Alliance, both in and outside Parliament, are measures that let government intrude in new ways on the privacy and freedom of law-abiding Canadians for purposes that go beyond what is necessary to protect society. Security measures must be aimed at stopping terrorists, not at invading the privacy of law-abiding Canadians.
Although we may not agree with all of his specific conclusions and recommendations and even with the degree to which he thinks Canadian society is being fundamentally changed by some of the measures your government has taken or is contemplating taking, he raises some very valid public policy concerns in this area.
The Canadian Alliance continues to support the role played by the Privacy Commissioner in defending the privacy rights of Canadians in accordance with his mandate from Parliament.
It is however disturbing to learn from his report that it is in fact you and your government who are dismissing the concerns he has raised and I would hope that you would reconsider that stance. In the meantime, Parliament will be considering this report and I would hope that your government would listen and act on any recommendations arising out of such consideration by parliamentarians.
(Original signed by)
John Reynolds, M.P.
Official Opposition House Leader
C.c. Mr. George Radwanski
Privacy Commissioner of Canada
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