They’re watching you. Even if you’re not doing anything wrong – everything you do online is being recorded. Who are “they”? Well if you’re an American it’s the National Security Agency. But this distinction may be superficial. “There is no border,” according to Ronald Deibert, head of the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab. Canadians aren’t safe from US surveillance and evidently, we’re at the mercy of our own NSA.
The Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) is the Canadian equivalent to the NSA. Since 9/11 its budget has risen to $400 million annually. Although technically the agency only spies on Canadians when foreign parties are involved, this rule disappears when the RCMP or CSIS or any other government agency approaches CSEC for information.
Virtually everything CSEC does is classified. A spokesperson says the agency “operates within all Canadian laws,” but “cannot comment on its methods, operations and capabilities. To do so would undermine CSEC’s ability to carry out its mandate.”
Canada is part of an agreement with the USA, UK, Australia and New Zealand that monitors communications worldwide. These countries coordinate with each other, essentially giving the NSA access to everything Canadians do on their phones and the internet. The program, called ECHELON or “Five Eyes,” began during the Cold War, but continues to this day. By partaking in an international surveillance-network, police and military agencies can spy on their own citizens without breaking any domestic laws.
However, since 9/11 domestic laws have changed drastically. The Canadian Security Intelligence Act is a mirror image of the USA’s Patriot Act. Section 21 says,
Where the Director or any employee designated by the Minister for the purpose believes, on reasonable grounds, that a warrant under this section is required to enable the Service to investigate a threat to the security of Canada or to perform its duties and functions under section 16, the Director or employee may, after having obtained the approval of the Minister, make an application in accordance with subsection (2) to a judge for a warrant under this section.
Just like the Patriot Act, Canadian authorities don’t need probable cause for investigation. Just the speculation of the Minister of National Defence or the Minister of Foreign Affairs. And just like the police state south of the 49th,
the judge may issue a warrant authorizing the persons to whom it is directed to intercept any communication or obtain any information, record, document or thing and, for that purpose,
(a) to enter any place or open or obtain access to any thing;
(b) to search for, remove or return, or examine, take extracts from or make copies of or record in any other manner the information, record, document or thing; or
(c) to install, maintain or remove any thing.
These “patriot” laws and spy agencies are establishing a dangerous precedent that, if left unchecked, will erode the foundations that make Canada one of the freer societies on the planet. Once upon a time it was thought that societies moved through “stages of history.” Canada began as a monarchy before subscribing to democratic values and civil liberties. Instead of marching forward to a society where law and order reflect the principles of voluntary association and peaceful commerce, Canada is now backsliding into an Orwellian surveillance state where everyone is a potential terrorist.