Canada’s privacy commissioner has proposed two amendment to an act that would give U.S. border agents more power on Canadian soil.
Privacy Commissioner of Canada Daniel Therrien, has proposed that members of the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence amend a bill that aims to further solidify pre-clearance rules for individuals travelling into the U.S. from Canada, by ensuring that electronic devices are subject to the same search restrictions as searches of people.
As it stands, Canadian border agents part of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) are allowed to search anything carried by individuals travelling into Canada.
However, as Therrien established during his remarks at a Bill C-23 meeting on December 4th, 2017, CBSA policy ensures that agents need proof that “contraventions may be found on the digital device or media” before formally conducting a search.
“Therefore, while the law is not yet settled, I think it is clear that Canadian courts would find groundless searches of electronic devices to be unconstitutional, even at the border,” said Therrien in his remarks. “This may explain why the CBSA has adopted a nuanced policy in this regard.”
Therrien believes that this agency policy should be enshrined into law, in order to legally protect individual travelling into Canada, as well as to ensure that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) agents who will be subject to Canada’s law do not infringe on individual privacy.
Canada’s privacy commissioner has previously expressed concerns about USCBP agents searching electronic devices.
In a statement delivered on September 18th, 2017, Therrien said that Canadians should be “very concerned” about their digital devices getting searched at the U.S. border.
Bill C-23, formally known as the Preclearance Act of 2016, seeks to expand the powers of U.S. border agents by providing them with greater search and seizure powers on Canadian soil.