Published Tue, Oct 22, 2013
The executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) says queer Canadians should be particularly concerned about government surveillance programs because of their long history of spying on the community.
“I think this an important matter and issue for all Canadians, but there’s been a long history of surveillance and spying by police and other authorities on the queer community in Canada going back decades,” Josh Paterson says.
The BCCLA launched a lawsuit against Canada’s national electronic intelligence gathering agency, the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), on Oct 22, claiming its surveillance programs violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Everybody in Canada, including people in the queer community, knows what this means,” Paterson says. “They know what this is about — to be surveilled by the government secretly and for no good reason at all. And that is what we fear is happening on a Canada-wide scale.”
In December 2001, the federal government passed the Anti-Terrorism Act in response to the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The act amended the Defence Act to empower the minister of defence to authorize CSEC to intercept the private communications of anyone in Canada who is communicating with someone outside the country. This can include emails, phone conversations, video calls and text messages.
These ministerial authorizations have been issued or renewed on 59 occasions since January 2002.
“Unaccountable and unchecked government surveillance presents a grave threat to democratic freedoms,” says BCCLA lawyer Joseph Arvay in a press release.