Civil liberties group sues over metadata snooping by Communications Security Establishment Canada

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      The Vancouver-based B.C. Civil Liberties Association has launched legal action against the attorney general of Canada, alleging that a secretive federal spying agency's collection of data violates Canadians' constitutional rights.

      The notice of civil claim, which was filed in B.C. Supreme Court, points out that Communications Security Establishment Canada shares information it collects with foreign intelligence entities in the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia.

      As well, CSEC provides data to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP.

      The BCCLA's notice of civil claim cited 59 written authorizations to intercept communications, which were issued by Canadian defence ministers between 2002 and 2012.

      Its legal action seeks a court order declaring that these authorizations unjustifiably infringe on section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of expression.

      In addition, the BCCLA wants a court order declaring that the authorizations also unjustifiably infringe on section 8 of the charter, which protects Canadians against unreasonable search and seizure.

      The lawsuit also seeks to have ministerial directives in 2005 and 2011 regarding the collection of metadata to be declared unconstitutional under the same sections of the charter.

      The BCCLA's action coincided with an announcement by Vancouver-based that it will launch a "national public outreach campaign" calling on Canadians to support the court action.

      “CSEC spying is secretive, expensive, and out of control,” executive director Steve Anderson said in a news release. “We’re talking about a secretive agency having the power to spy on the private lives of any resident of Canada, at any time, and we can’t even tell when we’ve been victimized by it. We strongly support the BCCLA’s court challenge, and that's why today we're hosting a campaign that calls on all Canadians to stand with the BCCLA and demand a stop to these reckless programs of arbitrary online spying involving law-abiding Canadians.”

      Last week, representatives of the BCCLA and Open expressed concerns to the Georgia Straight about the possibility of the Conservative government reintroducing measures contained in Bill C-30.

      That legislation, which never passed, would have expanded police powers to gain access to people's net-surfing habits without necessarily having to obtain a search warrant.

      In February 2012, then–public safety minister Vic Toews claimed that critics of Bill C-30 "can either stand with us or with the child pornographers".

      Toews has since retired.



      Anna Kindy

      Oct 23, 2013 at 7:08pm

      Thank you fo writing about csec which have even less oversight than the NSA. Hopefully Canadians will wake up to what is being done to them with their tax dollars. Previous generations have fought for us to have the freedoms we have today and we should not hand over an Orwellian type of "democracy" to the next generation

      Michel Gourd

      Nov 3, 2013 at 5:07pm

      Do we have to widen pursuit against CSEC to other Canadian intelligence agencies?

      Data given by Edward Snowden let the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association believe the Communications Security Establishment Canada spying on Canadian citizens is a threat for democratic liberties. In its last report before leaving offices, the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner, Honourable Robert Décary, also asserts that CSEC could have taken Canadians for target last year. A more detailed inquiry shows that the CSEC collects since 2005 Canadians phone calls, e-mails, text messages and Internet information. A 2011 ministerial directives renewed its right to handle these data. According to an ex deputy director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Ray Boisvert, it is highly possible that CSEC could also have handle information of innocent Canadians. So, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association prosecuted CSEC for violating the Charter of Rights by intercepting Canadians’ private communications.

      This spying occurs without the knowledge of Canadian citizens because Ottawa stopped in 2012 revealing CSEC annual priorities. Formerly a branch of the Defence ministry, this body became an autonomous agency, which reports directly to the Minister. Details surrounding the mission, which were previously public, are now classified secrets.

      One big problem about this situation is that CSEC have to give CSIS, the RCMP and other police forces sensitive information. Security Intelligence Review Committee 2012-2013 Annual Report: "Bridging the Gap: Recalibrating the Machinery of Security Intelligence and Intelligence Review", found that a significant risk of closer collaboration between CSIS and CSEC was the potential erosion of control over information. Do we have to widen to other Canadian intelligence agencies the pursuit against CSEC because they can also have access to information, which could be a threat for citizens' democratic liberties?