By Meghan McDermott, Staff Counsel (Policy), BC Civil Liberties Association
Today, the BCCLA is re-launching an online guide about privacy rights related to electronic devices – such as laptops, cellphones, and tablets – at the border. It’s aimed at people crossing the border into Canada or departing for the U.S. through preclearance areas in Canada. The guide comes in both a short and a long version and outlines the current law and policy related to device searches, best practices for travellers to protect their privacy, and what to do if you’ve had your device searched at the border.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies at the border, but the courts have found that the government’s interest in keeping dangerous goods and undesirable people out of the country gives the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) more power to search people and their possessions than police have in other settings.
The CBSA’s broad powers to search people and goods extends to the content on digital devices, such as your files, photos, and videos. These files are “goods” under the Customs Act, and border officers can search goods coming into Canada without a warrant – even if they have no reason to suspect that the goods are or contain contraband. Non-citizens seeking to enter Canada, including asylum seekers, may be subject to searches to verify identity and/or admissibility.
CBSA officers conduct initial searches of the contents of a device by browsing images, videos, and files. This is meant to be a cursory look to determine that they do not contain contraband – such as child pornography or hate literature – or evidence of a crime. Initial searches can be random or targeted. Information found during an initial search may be used to justify a more detailed examination, which may include copying the contents of the device.
CBSA officers can only look at content that is already on your device. They should put the device in airplane mode and only look at local content (this includes emails and text messages that are marked “read”). If the CBSA wants to search information only accessible with internet access (such as data in the cloud), they need a warrant from a judge.
If you are asked and you choose not to disclose your password, you risk increasing the CBSA’s suspicion about the contents of your device, denial of entry if you are not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, detention or seizure of the device for more detailed inspection by forensic specialists (which could take months), or arrest.
Here are some tips on how to protect your privacy at the Canadian border and in US preclearance zones:
Leave your devices at home
Make a backup of your data before you cross the border and leave it home. This will be important if your device is detained or seized, but it also gives you the option of deleting unnecessary data from your device before you cross.
Securely delete data you do not need to travel with.
Require a password to log on or access your device.
Create a strong password, for example by using several random words if possible.
Turn off your computer before crossing the border, because security experts have ways of accessing your computer’s memory if it is on. This also ensures your device is locked if it is turned on for a search.
Use two-factor authentication, in the event that the border officer seizes one device but not the other.
Use Full-Disk Encryption and require a strong passphrase to access it.
If you do not opt to use Full-Disk Encryption, you can encrypt specific critical documents or files.
Seniors First BC Society (Seniors First BC) provides pro-bono legal services to older adults age 55+ who cannot afford to hire a lawyer.
We may provide legal services for issues such as:
Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement
Assisted Living/Residential Care
Powers of Attorney
Seniors First BC accepts calls from older adults and people who care about them from anywhere in BC. To speak to a lawyer, contact the Seniors Abuse and Information Line at 604-437-1940 or toll-free 1-866-437-1940 and one of our lawyers may be able to assist.
We also offer free in-person legal consultations for older adults in Richmond, New Westminster, Surrey, Burnaby, North Vancouver and Vancouver once a month. To book an appointment at one of our legal clinics, contact 604-336-5653.
As a community, we have witnessed firsthand that youth with cerebral palsy and other disabilities already face significant difficulties in securing employment. A common barrier is the confusion that surrounds workplace procedures such as disclosures and accommodations. Though the BC Human Rights Code serves to protect youth in the workplace, we realized that the provision of safe spaces and legal expertise for youth to have discussions about joining the workforce is necessary and important.
On top of those barriers, youth with disabilities are disproportionately affected by mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, preventing them from fully participating in the workforce. Young people who participate in the Choices in Supports for Independent Living (CSIL) program and hire their own caregivers also require insight and understanding of an employers’ role and obligations.
Knowledge is empowerment
We have responded to this need by inviting legal experts to explore the topics of disclosure, accommodations and other related workplace topics in a series of workshops. These workshops are open to youth living with disabilities, their caregivers and other interested community members. We hope that access to legal expertise that caters to youth living with disabilities can support and empower them to join the workforce on an equal basis with other citizens.
At the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC, our vision is to create a Life without Limits for people living with disabilities and this includes the ability to seek employment and financial stability. We would love for you to join us!
by an ILRU Master’s Student at UVic Faculty of Law
What is the ILRU?
The Indigenous Law Research Unit (ILRU), housed in UVic’s Faculty of Law, is the only research unit dedicated to the restatement and revitalization of Indigenous law in Canada.
ILRU partners with Indigenous communities, at their request, to articulate their own legal principles and processes, on their own terms, in order to effectively respond to today’s complex challenges. ILRU also works to deepen broader engagement with Indigenous law through the delivery of workshops and development of academic and public legal education resources.
As a recent graduate from UVic law and now master’s student, this work is significant to me because all of ILRU’s works starts from the position that Indigenous laws are real, are alive, and are capable of being known and publicly applied. Although it is hard to imagine for some, it was not that long ago that Indigenous people could not even hire a lawyer let alone research and promulgate their own laws and traditions.
Roots in Truth and Reconciliation
ILRU has helped stoke the fires of the legal traditions it has worked with since it emerged in 2012 from a national partnership with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) and the Indigenous Bar Association. The first ILRU project had a significant impact on the TRC’s Calls to Action and was so ground-breaking that Indigenous communities began to contact the ILRU directly to request partnerships to research their own laws. Since that time, ILRU has partnered with Indigenous communities on a wide breadth of legal issues and questions. Currently, ILRU is engaged in nine projects ranging from creating Indigenous law curriculum for use in law schools to work that is aimed at examining the principles and processes in an Anishinaabe legal tradition that relate to community governance.
The Joint Degree Program – Juris Indigenarum Doctor (JID) & Juris Doctor (JD)
The JID/JD dual degree is truly groundbreaking. Similar to the position taken by ILRU, the program begins from the understanding that Indigenous laws are real, knowable, and can be critically examined and worked with by both insiders and outsiders. This program is a double degree that will, throughout the four-year program, instruct students on the complete content of a Canadian common law degree and aspects of various Indigenous legal traditions for the purpose of increasing the students’ capacity to work with and within these legal traditions.
One of the most exciting components about the JID/JD program is the field course that students will undertake during their third and fourth years and comprise the entirety of their course load during the semester. During these terms students will, under the close supervision of academic supervisors and community knowledge keepers, learn about a particular Indigenous community’s legal traditions by observing the ways in which their legal processes are applied today. The field schools will also have students work with the specific community on law-related projects. The purpose of these terms is to imbue students with the skills necessary to understand the institutions, sources of law, forms of reasoning, legal principles and procedures within those People’s law(s).
Walking the Walk
The first field course, “C?ELA?N?ENE?*: A Field Course in the Re-emergence of W?SA?NEC? Law Fall 2018” will be offered in Fall 2018 and taught by John Borrows and Rob Clifford. The significance of having the focus of the first field course be W?SA?NEC? law merits specific mention here. The work of reconciliation and revitalization is something that falls on the shoulders of every Canadian citizen and institution. Often times the work can seem overwhelming, too abstract, or any other myriad of sensations as it asks Canadians to grapple with hard truths about our past and present. I ask readers to draw inspiration from what is being undertaken at University of Victoria when dealing with such struggles and look to those closest to you. I am grateful to be a part of an institution that, while understanding the need to be attentive to national and global issues, begins by working with those who have and continue to be directly impacted by the University’s physical presence upon their territories.
*Words may not render properly in RSS and WordPress. Please see the link for the correct rendering.
by Peter Kim, Communications & Digital Engagement Manager, Pivot Legal Society
Pivot Legal Society’s mission is to target and remove systemic barriers to justice for communities affected by poverty and social exclusion. We do this through strategic litigation, advocacy, and public education and outreach to empower those affected by homelessness, police violence, people engaged in sex work, and individuals who use substances.
Winning the court of public opinion
As a legal advocacy organization, our most pressing battles to advance the rights of disenfranchised communities are fought in the courtrooms of law; but in today’s digital age, where the flow of information is never-ending, we strive for change in the court of public opinion as well. We do this through our use of data as a powerful visual tool to convey meaning in an accessible manner.
Making sense of data using interactive infographics
Our four campaign areas—sex work, drug policy, homelessness, and police accountability—are richly supported by data sets and research that remains, in large part, inaccessible from mainstream consumption. Pivot translates this information into a meaningful form to enhance its communications campaigns: interactive infographics.
We use data to tell a story, be it the dire urgency of the current overdose epidemic or ways in which police enforcement interferes with public health efforts. Interactive infographics deliver meaning instantly. Where a paragraph of words struggles to convey its message in minutes, a graph or chart can effortlessly deliver meaning within seconds.
This is significant because of the way in which people consume information in the social media age. Words alone often fail to register because of shortened attention spans and a propensity to rapidly scroll on our smartphones. We have become an audience spoiled by choice and quantity. Infographics are that visual aid to capture the interest of the easily distracted and draw them in.
Increasing online engagement
We have seen a measurable impact in the way our visuals have engaged our online audience. This blog post on the scale of British Columbia’s overdose crisis and harm reduction efforts had an average “time on page” value of 6:38 seconds—an eternity by online standards.
Plotting a harm reduction map
Click on a location to learn more about the site. Zoom in and out to get a better view.
Pivot has created one of the first harm reduction maps of its kind in Canada, plotting the locations of all Health Canada-approved supervised consumption sites and many of the country’s overdose prevention sites. The content has received over 30,000 impressions so far and has been shared with other health service providers.
Using interactive infographics as a tool for legal advocacy
The innovative yet disruptive forces of the internet are forcing industries to evolve. The news media and brick and mortar retail are two such examples where adaptation isn’t an option, but rather an imperative for survival.
To a lesser degree, how we communicate and engage our community of supporters and the public more generally must also adapt to compete in the marketplace of information, already a crowded space where the strength of content alone isn’t enough. Interactive infographics are just one tool we use to give us the edge and help us achieve our strategic objectives to improve the lives of Canada’s most marginalized people.
Governance is the method or system of an organization’s management. Good governance helps an organization to make timely, effective, and enforceable decisions. Laws on governance are intended to foster these goals.
The popular conception of decision-making in property law emphasizes the sovereignty of individual owners. It’s reflected in the saying, “my home, my castle.” This does not work for strata properties. Giving every owner a veto over every decision would make it next to impossible for the collective to manage common property and to ensure harmonious living.
So strata governance has been based on the corporate model. It provides for majority rule on most decisions, with some important, far-reaching decisions calling for greater-than-majority support.
The consultation paper doesn’t take issue with this basic premise of strata governance. But it does propose a significant level of fine-tuning in selected areas, to improve the operation of the law.
An overview of the consultation paper’s tentative recommendations
establishing a defined form of proxy appointment for strata-corporation general meetings, to clarify the relationship between the proxy and the person appointing the proxy and help to stamp out abuses of the proxy system;
establishing statutory qualifications for strata-council members, modelled on the qualifications for directors found in the Societies Act, which will set the minimum standards for serving on a strata council;
clarifying the order of agenda items for strata-corporation general meetings, to allow for better meeting procedure; and
creating a special four-year limitation period for claims that may be subject to the strata corporation’s lien under section 116 of the act, which will help stratas in enforcing their claims.
The consultation paper also considered, but declined to endorse, the following proposals:
extending the strata corporation’s lien to cover fines and charge backs;
limiting the number of proxy appointments for a general meeting that one person may hold.
Since 2013, BCLI has been at work on the Strata Property Law Project—Phase Two. The goal of the project is to recommend changes to the law necessary to support the next generation of strata-property legislation in British Columbia.
In carrying out the project, BCLI has the benefit of assistance from an expert project committee, with 13 leaders drawn from the ranks of the legal, notarial, real-estate, and strata-management professions, public officials, and owners’ organizations.
The project is supported by nine funding organizations.
The StreetMessenger was created by VCN (a charity) because they briefly struggled with the burden social service agencies deal with daily — the need to rapidly send information about supports available for street and marginalized survivors in a way that will be read and acted on in real time.
The VCN offices work out of Woodward’s in the DTES; they were posting the Extreme Weather Shelter sheets in the window. It didn’t take long to realize that nobody looked at the posters and that email was just as useless for time-sensitive info. The tech charity decided to begin working on the StreetMessenger. With funding from the Canadian Internet Registries Authority and Innovation in Homelessness (ESDC), they’re now able to make this very easy to use text-messaging platform freely available across Canada so agencies can save money and time on outreach, with more effective and wider-reaching results.
An new and very exciting feature of the system is the Shelter Bed Availability Map. The map icons display the number of beds available in the shelter at that location (and set to zero at 11pm). The numbers can change as the beds are taken with a simple text message to the system from the front line staff. It is currently being updated by bc211 during their twice daily call-outs.
by Laura Track Community Development Lawyer This guest post has been cross-posted from the BCCLA news feed.
Like many of you, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my rights at the border. In light of reports that numerousCanadians have been refused entry to the United States for unclear or troubling reasons recently, not to mention the possibility that US officials could start demanding social media passwords from would-be travellers, I’m worried about delays, refusal, and protecting my privacy. And as a white woman born in Canada with an Anglophone last name, I probably have a lot less to worry about than many others.
Your rights at the border have been extensivelycanvassed in a widerange of mediaarticles recently. We hope it’s useful to have this information available all in one place, but remember that the law can change and things are happening quickly, so don’t rely on this information for advice about your own specific situation.
There are also some tips for protecting your privacy at the bottom of the post.
The first thing to remember if you’re a Canadian travelling to the United States is that you do not have a free-standing right to enter the US. Many Canadians have been crossing the Canada-US border regularly and without incident for years, but it’s important to remember that US officials have no obligation to let you into the country and can deny you entry for all sorts of reasons that may seem arbitrary and unfair. And while it seems like we’re hearing about many more examples of troubling actions by US border officials right now, there have been many instances of unfairness over the years. Canadians have been refused entry to the US because of a history of depression and mental illness. The US didn’t lift its ban on ban on entry into the US by people with HIV until 2009.
The US Immigration and Nationality Act states that except in cases specified by Congress,
…no person shall receive any preference or priority or be discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence.
A spokesperson for US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has stated that “CBP does not discriminate on the entry of foreign nationals to the United States based on religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.” But despite these assurances, it may be difficult for some people to feel confident that their right to non-discriminatory treatment will be respected when we hear stories like that of the Muslim woman turned back after she was questioned about her religion, or the man denied entry after border guards read his profile on a gay hookup app.
The fact that information about both of these travellers was discovered on their cell phones raises another pressing question:
In a word: yes. And they can ask for your device’s password, too. You don’t have to give it, but it’s unlikely you’ll be allowed into the country if you don’t. The officer could even tell you that you’re banned from ever entering the United States, but there’s no legal basis for banning you for refusing to give a password, and lawyers say that such a ban could be challenged in court.
Of course, going to court is an arduous, expensive and time-consuming undertaking, one made all the more difficult by the fact that you’d have to sue in the US. You can seek the intervention of a supervisor while you’re being questioned and lodge a complaint with US Customs and Border Protection when you get home, but it may not make much difference. You can also report your experience to a local affiliate of the ACLU.
What about Canadian border guards? Do I have more rights as a Canadian when I’m coming back into Canada?
The right of every citizen of Canada to enter, remain in and leave Canada is protected by section 6 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But your other Charter rights are significantly curtailed at the border, including your right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure and your usual protections against arbitrary detention and compelled self-incrimination.
Section 99 of the Customs Act gives Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) officers the power to “examine any goods that have been imported and open or cause to be opened any package or container of imported goods” – basically, to search your stuff. “Goods” are defined to include “any document in any form.” Section 11 requires entrants to Canada to “answer truthfully any questions asked by the officer in the performance of his or her duties”, and section 153 forbids making “false or deceptive” statements to customs officers or acting to “hinder or prevent” officers in performing their duties.
These laws were created at a time when people crossed the border with a suitcase and maybe a briefcase, not with digital devices containing deeply personal information including photos, text messages, emails and search histories. However, despite the Supreme Court of Canada’s clear acknowledgment in a recent digital privacy rights case that “it is unrealistic to equate a cell phone with a briefcase or document found in someone’s possession”, the CBSA interprets its power to search “goods” as including a power to search cell phones and laptops, and warrantless, suspicionless searches of digital devices are a matter of routine.
Unlike the US, which has published a detailed Privacy Impact Assessment on border searches of electronic devices, Canadian policies are much more difficult to find, making it harder for Canadians to understand and assert their rights. Interim guidelines obtained through an Access to Information Request and provided to the BCCLA offer a glimpse into CBSA’s policy. Officers can request passwords, though not for information stored “remotely or online.” If a traveller refuses, the device could be seized and held for a forensic examination. Nothing in the law or guidelines prevents CBSA from then copying the entire contents of the device.
The guidelines also state that until further instructions are issued, CBSA officers shall not arrest a traveller solely for refusing to provide a password. In response to questions from media, Scott Bardsley, press secretary for the minister of public safety, recently confirmed that the guidelines are still in place. The BCCLA has not independently confirmed that the guidelines are still operative and, in any event, they are only guidelines and should not be relied on as a definitive statement of the law.
As we detailed in a previous blog post, in 2015 (prior to the enactment of the guidelines) a Montreal man was charged with hindering or preventing an officer from performing their duties under the Customs Act after refusing to give up the password to his Blackberry when a CBSA officer demanded it. Mr. Philippon ultimately abandoned a constitutional challenge to his arrest and pled guilty to the charge. Until another case comes along, we simply do not know whether the CBSA’s powers include compelling people to provide passwords (though we certainly know that CBSA acts as if they have this power), or whether it is constitutional to arrest someone for refusing (though we know that people have been arrested in these circumstances).
The safest thing you can do is to leave your device at home when you cross the border. That may not feel very realistic or practical, but if your whole life is on your device, that’s all the more reason to leave it behind. If it’s seized, you could be without it for a very long time.
If you must travel with your digital device, here are some things to consider:
Make a full backup. A recent backup will ensure you have access to your data if your device is detained.
Turn off your device when you’re crossing the border, disable fingerprint unlocking and require a strong password to log on. This will prevent a CBSA officer, or anyone else who wants access to your data, from simply turning on your device and browsing through its contents.
Wipe your device of any files you want to ensure remain private. If you’ve stored your backup online (see point 1), you can even download your data back onto your device once you reach your destination.
Encrypt important documents and files, or consider full disc encryption. Encryption essentially scrambles the contents of your electronic device. The data is unlocked by a passphrase. More and more laptops and handheld devices are coming with disc encryption software built in.
Separate privileged or confidential documents from other files. Privileged information is given the most protection, and in theory should not be viewed by border officers at all other than to verify that it is what you claim it to be. This certainly includes lawyers’ files, and can sometimes include doctors’ and psychologists’ records. Journalists have a limited privilege over their sources. If you have privileged information on a device that a border guard wants to search, be sure to alert them to its presence. This is much easier to do if the privileged materials aren’t mixed in with unprivileged materials.
Some people may worry that crossing the border with a wiped phone or encrypted files may look “fishy” and could expose them to heightened suspicion and scrutiny. We can certainly understand these concerns and encourage everyone to use their best judgment given their own circumstances, vulnerabilities and needs.
The more that we assert our privacy rights and take active steps to preserve and defend them, the more we help normalize these privacy-protective measures and the less “fishy-seeming” they will become.
This week, YWCAs across Canada commemorate YWCA Week without Violence, an annual week of violence prevention. Follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter to stay informed and share our posts with your networks.
At the YWCA, decades of experience have shown us that when we meet the needs of women on the margins, all women benefit. It’s why we continue with our advocacy efforts for Mothers without Legal Status. If we can help Mothers without Legal Status feel safe, supported and free from violence, then we are promoting a culture that believes all women should be free from violence.
Mothers without Legal Status are women who do not have permanent status under the Immigration & Refugee Protection Act to stay in Canada, but family court orders prevent their children from leaving the jurisdiction. Women in this situation face deportation while their children are left with partners who abused them. This hardship is unacceptable, and we work tirelessly to ensure every Mother without Legal Status who comes to us for help is approved to stay in Canada as a Permanent Resident.
While our advocacy efforts alleviate some day-to-day suffering for Mothers without Legal Status, the permanent solution is to change laws so women are no longer ripped away from their children. Our 100% success rate is validating, but it is still no guarantee for these women, who can spend up to three years in limbo. They fear every knock on the door could be Canada Border Services Agency, coming to take them away.
This fear and vulnerability sends many Mothers without Legal Status back to their abusers. Our system renders women dependent on their abusers to secure status in Canada, as it is their abusers who are entering an agreement with the government to have their wives stay in Canada. The abuser controls the sponsorship. He can threaten to withdraw it if she is not compliant, stall document processing or refuse to follow up on requests for more information or documentation.
If we want to end violence against women, we need to prevent a woman’s status in Canada from being tied to her abuser. We need to allow a woman leaving her abusive partner to file her own application, in secret, using the address of a friend, transition house or settlement agency. The applicant should be able to use whatever evidence she has of her abuse, including police or hospital reports, her own statement, information from victim services or other agencies she has sought support from or friends and family who are aware of the abuse. Most importantly, this application must allow her to begin the process of securing financial independence through income assistance and/or employment (and she should not be penalized for her personal path towards economic independence).
This is not a radical idea. This type of program has existed for more than 16 years in the United States and has not created havoc, abuse of the process or increased immigration demands. Creating a similar program here will demonstrate that Canada is serious about ending violence against every person, every day.
To learn more about our advocacy work: Chantelle Krish, Associate Director of Advocacy and Communications firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are, or know someone who is a mother without legal status in need of individual support, guidance or advocacy: Andrea Vollans, YWCA Legal Educator email@example.com
YWCA Metro Vancouver
The YWCA serves women and families throughout the metropolitan region spanning Burnaby, Surrey, the Tri-cities, Maple Ridge, Langley/Aldergrove, Abbotsford, New Westminster, Richmond and North Vancouver.
Our mission is to touch lives and build better futures for women and their families through advocacy and integrated services that foster economic independence, wellness and equal opportunities.
Legal Educator. Our legal educator provides one-to-one legal support and group workshops on a range of legal matters for women in need, including family law, poverty law, custody agreements, peace bonds and affidavits. While we offer education, resources, referrals and support around legal issues, we do not provide legal advice.
There are over 10,000 people living with cerebral palsy in British Columbia.
Cerebral Palsy Association of BC was started in 1954 by a group of parents who wanted to assist their children living with CP to reach their maximum potential within society. We provide support, education, and information throughout BC. Our resources on Clicklaw include:
Legal Workshop videos, with topics such as workplace discrimination, victims of crime, and rights for youth in transition
World CP Day is a movement of people with cerebral palsy and their families, and the organizations that support them, in more than 50 countries. The goal of World CP Day is to ensure that children and adults with cerebral palsy (CP) have the same rights, access and opportunities as anyone else in our society. It is only together, that we can make that happen.
In recognition of World CP Day 2016, the Government of British Columbia and cities and towns across the province have agreed to proclaim “World CP Day” and the province’s major landmarks will be lighting up green, the official colour of CP.
This map shows the governments that are proclaiming World CP Day and the landmarks that will be lit up on October 5th.
How to use the map: You can zoom in or out. Click any icon to show more about that proclamation or landmark. Click the button in the top left to bring up a list of all of the locations recognizing World CP Day.
Cerebral Palsy Association of BC
Our Mission is:
To raise awareness of Cerebral Palsy in the community;
To assist those living with Cerebral Palsy to reach their maximum potential; and
To work to see those living with Cerebral Palsy recognize their place as equals in a diverse society.
STAY INFORMED WITH CEREBRAL PALSY ASSOCIATION OF BRITISH COLUMBIA: