Juan Gabriel Estrada Alvarez and Richard S. Rosenberg

The sacrifice of thousands during the tragic events of 9/11 has brought people together. That, no one will contest. But has it brought us and our governments together? In the face of ‘anti-terrorist’ laws and policies, we may already be getting used to living in a permanent state of ‘war.’ Most informed individuals have heard of various programs introduced and laws passed in the U.S. in the aftermath of 9/11 (e.g. the PATRIOT Act [1]). Of those, most will also know of the corresponding policies adopted and being proposed (e.g. Data Retention as part of the Cybercrime Treaty [2]) in the European Union. But what about Canada? Not counting academia and civil liberties groups, Canadian policies and laws passed or proposed as a consequence of the events of 9/11 have received little or no attention from the public at large. Most citizens of this first world country are unaware of what their government has been up to in order to ‘mitigate’ the terrorism threat.

In this paper, we will give a historical view of how several policies have been proposed, of which some have been made into law, that raise concerns as disturbing as the controversial surveillance provisions of the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act. Included are Canada’s own Anti-Terrorism Act and most recent the Public Safety Act, parts of which just came into effect on December 1st of last year [3]. We will analyse the impact of those sections, pertinent to the online world of the Internet and the values of liberty that are so important to North American society, focusing mainly on privacy and free speech issues. To this end, we will introduce some specific examples that have arisen in the debate, including the proposal for a National Identity Card that utilizes extensive biometric technology [4], the idea of a centralized database that keeps track of citizens’ travel activities by the former Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (The Customs program is now part of the Canada Border Services Agency.) [5], and the concept of data preservation (better known as “Lawful Access”) which in effect makes Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other companies in the private sector agents of the State [6]. We will also discuss the existence of two lesser known bills [7] that were passed into law at around the same time as the Public Safety Act.

We will also examine whether or not these new powers available to law enforcement authorities are necessary, and if they are, whether they have enhanced our security. This exploration shall be done in contrast to their potential to erode the civil liberties mentioned above. Similarly, we will attempt to show the lack of awareness the Canadian public has with respect to all of these important laws, and how Canadians in general seem to be content and trusting of whatever their government decides to do, arguing that this is a situation that must be addressed as soon as possible. If not, tomorrow our children may no longer know the difference between liberty and ‘liberty subject to surveillance.’ The government should consider the effect of laws that were not drafted with a ‘temporary crisis’ frame of mind, before they become the established norm for our future generations.

To conclude, we will briefly reflect on the current state of the relationship of Canadian citizens with their government, and how history continues to repeat itself. Nonetheless, we will outline a few potential solutions from a technological point of view in support of our opinion that the ages old dilemma of “trading liberty for security” is a mere fallacy.


[1] Bill H.R.3162, Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act of 2001, Public Law 107-56, 2001, Page 115 Stat. 272.

[2] European Commission, DG INFSO – DG JAI, Consultation Document on Traffic Data Retention, (Brussels, 30 July 2004) online: (accessed 28 January 2005).

[3] Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Official Secrets Act, the Canada Evidence Act, the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act and other Acts, and to enact measures respecting the registration of charities, in order to combat terrorism, 1st Session, 37th Parliament, 2001 (assented to 18 December 2001), S.C. 2001, c. 41 [Anti-Terrorism Act]; Bill C-7, An Act to amend certain Acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety, 3rd Session, 37th Parliament, 2004 (assented to 6 May 2004), S.C. 2004, c. 15 [Public Safety Act, 2002].

[4] Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, News Release, “A National Identity Card for Canada?” (Ottawa, 7 October 2003) online: (accessed 28 January 2005).

[5] Letter from George Radwanski, former Privacy Commissioner of Canada, to the Hon. Elnor Caplan, former Minister of National Revenue (22 November 2002) online: (accessed 28 January 2005).

[6] Canada, Department of Justice, Lawful Access, (Ottawa, 25 August 2002) online: (accessed 28 January 2005).

[7] Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (capital markets fraud and evidence-gathering), 3rd Session, 37th Parliament, 2004 (assented to 29 March 2004), S.C. 2004, c. 3; Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts, 3rd Session, 37th Parliament, 2004 (assented to 22 April 2004), S.C. 2004, c. 12.