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 OpenMedia.ca 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,” OpenMedia.ca 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 Media.ca 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.