Former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour is not pleased. She has just discovered that her successful public service career requires her (and her family) to be subject to surveillance and reporting for 20 years. Her right to privacy (as well as the rights of her family) has been retroactively legislated away by Bill C-31, the massive 2014 omnibus budget bill. Bill C-31 included requirements that politically exposed domestic persons – PEPs – be subject to 20 years of surveillance in their personal affairs. The PEPs include past and present Supreme Court and appellate judges, ambassadors, deputy ministers, as well as their family members.
If we are going to make sure that these PEPs don’t become corrupt or influenced against Canada, is sacrificing privacy for security a fair trade?
First, experience has shown that this type of surveillance is ineffective at catching the bad guys. Second, the premise that security must be a trade-off is questionable. Dr. Ann Cavoukian, the former Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, leads the progressive thinkers on matters of privacy. Her position is that this zero-sum equation – more security means less privacy – must be rejected. Dr. Cavoukian has made that case over and over. And she has gained international support for her cause. Privacy is too important to be so casually abandoned, and she convincingly argues that all it takes is a new approach, and a commitment to make it happen. Smart people with the right mandate can indeed do much better than C-31. What we need is a few of good civil servants (there are lots of them) to be tasked with designing a way to protect both privacy and security.