Informational Privacy vs. Law Enforcement and National Security: Is Canada Failing to Strike a Balance?
The potential curtailment of informational privacy under the new information sharing provisions in Bill C-24, an Act to amend the Citizenship Act (the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act) has received little attention amidst heated debates over other provisions of the Act such as the Minister’s new power to unilaterally revoke Canadian citizenship in extreme cases. New sections 27(1)(k.2) to 27(1)(k.4) of the Act, however, provide for the disclosure of citizenship and immigration information to other governments for “purposes of national security or the conduct of international affairs”. The details are sparse, but Bill C-24 could empower Canada to share citizenship and immigration information details with foreign governments whether verified or not, and without oversight.
There are at least two faces to the issue of information-sharing between governments. The first depicts the conventional view that such information-sharing will enhance national and global security. The second depicts the darker side, in which individuals’ privacy rights are infringed with potentially devastating consequences.
Canadians have traditionally benefited from a reasonable standard of protection of their personal information – Canada being among the first jurisdictions to promulgate fairly stringent privacy legislation. The information-sharing provisions of Bill C-24, however, continue a trend in Canada to tip the balance in favour of law enforcement and public security over informational privacy.