FALK: Trudeau defends plan to snatch up Canadians’ private financial information
Does your private, personal financial information belong to you or the government?
This is the question many Canadians have been asking since the recent revelation that Statistics Canada has been demanding banks across the country turn over financial transaction data and personal information of 500,000 Canadians.
Bill payments, ATM cash withdrawals, credit card payments, electronic money transfers, account balances – you name it – are all up for grabs.
There is little else more sensitive than your private financial transaction records so it’s no surprise that Canadians were alarmed to hear that the national statistics agency was looking to collect such information from their banks without their knowledge or consent.
The public outcry was swift and Canada’s Conservatives called on the Liberal government to shut down this data-grab immediately.
Instead of listening to these concerns and taking steps to restore the trust Canadians have lost in the government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dug in his heels.
When Conservatives challenged him to explain why his government was collecting this information without Canadians’ consent, Justin Trudeau stated that: “High quality and timely data are critical to ensuring that government programs remain relevant and effective for Canadians.”
While everyone agrees that good data leads to better policy-making, the real question is why did the Liberals do it behind Canadians’ backs? Why did they choose to deliberately keep Canadians in the dark?
Raising the alarm
Conservatives are far from alone in expressing alarm over this intrusion into your personal information. Canada’s privacy commissioner launched an investigation into StatsCan over this action.
While the investigation is underway, at a recent appearance before a parliamentary committee the privacy commissioner stated that the agency “fell way short” of its responsibility to be transparent with Canadians. “So I have to conclude,” he said, “given where we are today, that the measures that Statistics Canada took were deficient on the issue of transparency for sure.”
Other experts have also sounded the alarm.
Ontario’s former privacy commissioner, speaking to Global News about StatsCan’s plan said: “When you find out after the fact, it just leaves many questions unanswered and I think that’s the reaction you’re seeing now. People are dumbfounded by this.”
Is your personal data secure?
It’s not far-fetched to question the security of such data in this day and age either.
A cyber-security expert told CBC News that StatsCan is “not resourced to handle this data. And they won’t be able to protect it appropriately.”
Data breaches involving government agencies, while rare, are not uncommon.
Just this past March, media reported that StatsCan lost hundreds of sensitive files during the 2016 census process. Confidential documents were left on a subway. Some were stolen. Others were sent to the wrong homes.
The Liberals need to do the right thing
When it comes to your personal information, Canadians expect their government to protect and respect the privacy of your personal financial lives.
That’s why the Liberal government’s defense of this situation is so shocking.
At the end of the day, however, there’s an even bigger issue here than questioning the government’s ability to protect your personal information.
There’s a problem when a government thinks it has a right to access your private information without your knowledge or consent.
Your personal financial information belongs to you and you have a right to know when it is being accessed and for what purpose.
With the pressure mounting, Canada’s chief statistician has pressed pause on the plan to collect this private information, but the Liberals haven’t indicated that they will halt the plan altogether. After trying to hide this data grab and then defending it when it became public, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals need to do the right thing and order StatsCan to stand down.
As the Official Opposition, Canada’s Conservatives will continue to demand that the Trudeau Liberals stop this outrageous violation of your privacy.
Your personal information belongs to you and you alone.
Southern Ontario is going to be affected by a brutal snowstorm this weekend. Ontario’s golden horseshoe will be smacked by 50-60 cm of snow, according to the Weather Network.
The storm is expected to snow-slap areas around the 401 and 407 corridors, affecting most of the Greater Toronto Area and rural Ontario that surrounds it. Downtown Toronto, however, will be less affected than the regions that surround it.
Cities that are expected to be affected include Toronto, Mississauga, and towns going east along the 401 like Whitby and Oshawa.
The week has been mild in Ontario, and a sudden snowstorm may serve as a surprise to many Ontarians who were enjoying the lukewarm weather.
So far, winter in Ontario has been especially good this winter. In January, it has stayed above zero frequently, with the sun keeping the inhabitants warm.
After the weekend, the temperature is expected to return to normal—creating a slushy Sunday for the province.
Calgary Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel Garner confirmed on Twitter Wednesday night that former prime minister Stephen Harper will not be seeking Conservative leadership.
The announcement, Rempel says, was from Harper himself, after days of online murmurs and a thin field of Conservative candidates had many of the party’s supporters crossing their fingers that the former prime minister would return from his life away from the political centre stage.
The confirmation is yet another ding in the Tory leadership, as the number of strong potential Conservative candidates drops lower by the day.
For those keeping track, former interim leader Rona Ambrose announced that she had no intention of running. Jean Charest seemed up for the job for a hot second, though he too would steer clear, following some dramatics.
Though Conservative social media put their faith in Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre, he too would decide to not run for leadership, citing his desire to spend time with his family.
With a number of candidates now officially out, Conservative members now face three viable contenders: Former Veteran Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole, who also serves as the Conservative Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs, Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu, and former Harper minister Peter MacKay, who’s polling as the clear front runner.
Candidates will have until Feb. 27 to decide to enter the race. The votes will be counted and announced June 27.
Would the International Criminal Court prosecutor opening an investigation into Palestine be a good idea?
Sarah Teich is a lawyer and a consultant to the Canadian Coalition Against Terror. She holds a law degree from the University of Toronto and a master’s degree in Counter-Terrorism. She spent four months in 2016 working with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague and received a commendation for her work.
On December 20, 2019, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Ms. Fatou Bensouda, announced that she was prepared to open an investigation into the situation in Palestine, following a four-year preliminary examination. Ms. Bensouda articulated that she was satisfied there was a “reasonable basis to believe” that war crimes have been or are being committed on Palestinian territory–which she defines as the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.
This is a loaded announcement, and a brief backgrounder on how the Court operates and the history of Palestinian interaction with it–is essential to understanding this development.
Generally, there are three stages to Prosecution at the Court: the preliminary examination, the investigation, and the trial. The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) currently has several situations in preliminary examination. Most situations are referred to the Court by the State Party in question (“self-referrals”), from governments who lack the capacity to take on these cases domestically. The OTP conducts many preliminary examinations, but not all make it to the investigation stage. For the OTP to open an investigation, it needs to be satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes have been committed, that the Court has jurisdiction over the situation, that no domestic proceedings are covering the issue, and that the situation is of sufficient gravity to warrant use of the Court’s limited resources.
Critically, the OTP only has jurisdiction to investigate crimes that occur in the territory of a State Party, or crimes by State Party nationals. That is, unless the Court has received a specific declaration by a non-state party accepting jurisdiction, or a mandate from the U.N. Security Council to investigate a specific situation.
Despite Ms. Bensouda’s assertion that there is a “reasonable basis” to believe war crimes have been committed in Palestine, there are serious jurisdictional concerns to be considered before any investigation may be initiated.
For starters, is Palestine really a “State”, such that it can confer jurisdiction to the Court? Ms. Bensouda posits that because Palestine is a State Party to the Rome Statute, that is sufficient to close this debate and label Palestine a State. However, this interpretation is inconsistent with well-established principles of public international law.
Specifically, article 1 of the Montevideo Convention, which Ms. Bensouda herself acknowledges as “the most accepted formulation of statehood criteria in international law”–establishes four criteria for statehood. These criteria are permanent population, defined territory, effective government, and capacity to enter into relations with foreign states. Palestinians do appear to have a permanent population, but the other three criteria are lacking. To fulfill the territorial requirement, there must be exclusive control of territory within fixed boundaries. Then, there must be effective government capable of controlling the territory. As Ms. Bensouda acknowledges, the Palestinian Authority does not have control over all territories claimed. The Palestinian Authority does not control Gaza (Hamas does), and Israel has full control over East Jerusalem and large swaths of the West Bank. Palestine may have some capacity to enter foreign relations, as it is able to sign treaties and join international bodies–but this is also disputed, due to provisions of the Oslo Accords.
Ms. Bensouda suggests that this type of analysis should essentially be side-stepped because Palestine is already a State Party to the Rome Statute. But perhaps Palestine should not have been permitted to become a State Party. In fact, this was the position taken by the Government of Canada; that Palestine should not have been permitted to become a State Party. Canada believed this was both legally wrong, and also diminished the likelihood of a sustainable, negotiated peace between Israel and Palestine–down the road.
Even if the Court gets past the difficulties with Palestinian statehood, there is the next question of territorial jurisdiction. Does the Court have jurisdiction to investigate crimes in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza? Palestine is a State Party to the Rome Statute, but Israel is not, and the Court only has jurisdiction over crimes committed in the territory of a State Party. So, the next question becomes: what constitutes the territory of Palestine? Does the territory of Palestine include the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza? That is the position taken by Palestine and adopted by Ms. Bensouda. However, for the Court to take this position would be problematic. As Ms. Bensouda acknowledges, these borders are disputed.
Precisely because of the disputed nature of the borders, Ms. Bensouda is now asking a panel of Court judges to rule on the scope of her territorial jurisdiction – to “confirm” that Palestinian territory for purposes of jurisdiction includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. For the Court to step into this highly politicized arena and to essentially draw the borders of two states without their consent–is a dramatic overstep and would be detrimental to the ongoing peace process. These questions that the Court is now tasked with answering, are matters of policy and diplomacy, not international crime. The issues are best left to the negotiation table, not the courtroom.
When Palestine became a State Party, Canada objected. Canada also objected to Palestine’s “self-referral” to the Court of this situation back in 2015. Canada should continue to object to these moves. This is not what the International Criminal Court was designed to do.
While WHO decided today that it was too early to call the coronavirus a “public health crisis,” the world is now keeping a watchful eye on China, where the virus first originated.
China’s track record when it comes to pandemics is not a good one. In November of 2002, an outbreak of the now well-known SARS virus—which is similar in nature to the new coronavirus—began in China’s Guangdong province, with a population in 133 million. The People’s Republic of China did not notify the WHO until February 10, 2003, reporting that 305 cases including 105 health-care workers, and five deaths.
The People’s Republic, in an effort to hide the truth from its citizens, a common practice used to keep up morale, discouraged the nation’s press from reporting on the SARS outbreak, and even hid reports from the World Health Organization.
China would even go so far as to prevent WHO teams from visiting the Guangdong province where the disease first spread, not allowing entry until April.
The reason for China’s shifty and suspicious behaviour of not disclosing information regarding when plagues and natural disasters (i.e. 2009 earthquake) could be thanks partly to a traditional belief called the Mandate of Heaven. According to the mandate, great disasters like famine, floods, plagues, and earthquakes were a sign from the heavens that the gods were displeased with the current ruler—reluctance to admit this to the public would often lead to civil unrest, as the masses believed the heavens were warning the people of the ruler’s illegitimacy.
The virus continued to spread throughout the world thanks to China’s inaction. In February of 2004, an elderly woman returned to Toronto from Hong Kong. She died after infecting her son, who would go on to spread the disease at Scarborough Grace Hospital, before himself succumbing to the virus.
If Canada were to learn from the past, the country would immediately and unapologetically forbid all direct flights from China to enter Canada. With the knowledge that the virus can spread person-to-person, it’s vital that the country delay the virus’ entry at all costs—though it may already be too late. Two Quebec hospitals are supervising five potential carriers, all of whom recently returned from China.
SARS eventually ended up killing 44 people in Canada, which would make it the only country not in Asia to have deaths from the virus.
We can now see that China is in a full-blown panic regarding the virus. The country has taken several massive steps, including cancelling the world’s busiest travel year, the solar New Year, in the nation’s capital. The country has also put three major cities into quarantine, a massive step which will prevent people from leaving or entering city limits. Plans have also been announced that the city will construct dedicated coronavirus hospitals in just six days time.
The origins of the virus have been traced back to a market in the Wuhan city center, but some have started to question this. With China’s history of dishonesty, is it really that out of the question that the origins lie in something more malevolent?
Take for example the Wuhan maximum security biolab which opened in 2017, one of many planned facilities of that nature across China. According to Nature, Wuhan built a lab to deal with “the world’s most dangerous pathogens,”
According to the Nature article, scientists outside China worried about pathogens escaping, and that “the addition of a biological dimension to geopolitical tensions between China and other nations.”
Whether this had any part in the virus will probably never come to light. But with certainty, Canadians and the world should be wary of any official information released from China’s regime.