June 21, 2014 - No. 20

Second Session of 41st Parliament Closes

More Unprecedented Attacks on the Rights of First Nations and All Canadians

Second Session of 41st Parliament Closes

More Unprecedented Attacks on the Rights of
First Nations and All Canadians

The Second Session of the 41st Parliament ended June 20. In this session, the Harper government continued its anti-social, anti-human assault on the First Nations and all Canadians. It continued to use its parliamentary majority to pass 25 self-serving and unjust laws with impunity (see list of bills below).

Among the laws passed was Bill C-9, the First Nations Elections Act, an odious colonial and paternalistic law that usurps the treaty and hereditary rights of First Nations to govern their affairs as sovereign First Nations. It is coupled with the call issued by Dan Shapiro, chief adjudicator of the Independent Assessment Process regarding abuse at Indian Residential Schools, for the testimony and evidence of the 38,000 Indian Residential School survivors to be destroyed in the name of upholding the right to privacy. This amounts to some 800,000 documents and 19,500 rulings. Shapiro argued on June 20 that the public testimony from 7,000 people who have spoken to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is enough for the historical record. He has previously claimed that censoring the documents would be too cumbersome.

This outrageous proposal shows once again the attitude of the Harper government to destroy the historical record of the experience of First Nations in Canada. Far from being destroyed, these records could be returned to those who testified and their Nations could decide how they should be preserved. Shapiro's proposal, in contravention of established norms and practices, sheds light on the intention of the Harper government's law which renamed the Museum of Civilization as the Canadian Museum of History (Bill C-7). This agenda to rewrite history and wipe out the very existence of Indigenous peoples shows what kind of history Prime Minister Harper wants to celebrate.

The Parliament also passed Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, which makes "Canadian values" a condition of citizenship. Citizenship is a matter of right. To claim that citizenship can be based on "Canadian values" is a move to criminalize the conscience of those with whom the government of the day does not agree. This measure enables the state to deprive people of citizenship on political grounds -- to revoke the citizenship of those Canadians the government of the day claims go against "Canada's interests." This goes against the fundamental tenets of democratic principle.

One of the most opposed legislative changes of this session was Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act which received royal assent on June 19. Already there is a Charter challenge against this legislation which, under the hoax of curbing voting fraud, will restrict voter participation by making it more difficult to meet voter ID requirements. This private information is used to micro-target the electorate in order to manipulate election results. It is a retrogressive attack on the precepts of democracy.

By the end of the Second Session of this 41st Parliament, 378 private members' bills were tabled or brought forward from the First Session. Of these, five received Royal Assent; 15 were defeated; seven were not proceeded with; and 29 were at various stages of the parliamentary process. The remainder will carry forward to the next session. A total of 251 private members' bills were tabled by NDP members, while 59 were from Conservatives, including the five that received Royal Assent.

The Harper government is crowing that the large number of private members' bills is proof of the democratic character of this government. It goes further. It is allegedly proof of the vitality of Canada's democracy itself. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told reporters that "private members' bills have been used more successfully by private members in this Parliament than I think in the history of Canada." Conservative MP Joy Smith has stated, in another example of Harperite boasting about the freedoms and powers of its members, that in the history of Confederation, only 17 Members of Parliament have been able to change the Criminal Code and more than a dozen of these changes have taken place since Harper's ascension to power in 2006. These changes include restrictions on parole hearings and the mandatory minimum sentences for "gang" recruitment. More than half of the Conservative private members' bills introduced since the 2011 election involve either Criminal Code matters, a crackdown on prisoners or terrorism related measures.

This session of Parliament also saw more opposition to the Harper government, including actions by veterans, First Nations, continued opposition to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and actions in communities across the country to protest the Harper dictatorship and its nation-wrecking and anti- social agenda.

The sharp contrast between the proceedings of the Second Session of the 41st Parliament and the actions of the people highlight the situation facing all Canadians -- that the current political arrangements are irrevocably broken. They do not function except to exclude the people from having a say in matters which affect their lives. The task at hand is how to build the mechanisms to negate the power of those who deprive us of political power, so as to exercise control over our lives.

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Amended Electoral Law in Place for 2015 Election

Harper's New Electoral Law Is Self-Serving,
Incoherent and Violates Privacy Rights

Bill C-23, the Harper Government's amendments to the Canada Elections Act, passed third reading in the Senate on June 15 by a vote of 51-15 with one abstention, one month after it was adopted in the House of Commons by a vote of 146 to 123. Most of the changes to the Canada Elections Act will come into force on December 19, 2014. Those related to political contributions and election spending will take effect January 1, 2015. Several provisions, such as some of those related to the transfer of the Commissioner of Canada Elections to the Public Prosecutor's Office will take effect on a day determined by Governor in Council.

Many aspects of the new Canada Elections Act will become clearer once the complex package of Bill C-23 amendments is added to the existing law and published in final form. The impact is far-reaching. Not only does it affect all aspects of participation in elections, from the obligations and requirements of standing as a candidate to casting a ballot, but the law will make a further mockery of the electoral process which is supposed to be a method by which the popular will can be gauged and converted into the legal will.

In the representative form of democracy which exists in Canada, political parties are supposed to rally the electorate to their competing visions for society and on this basis compete with each other to form a government with a mandate from the people. The party which wins a majority of seats on the first-past-the-post basis forms the government.

Today, the ruling elites no longer seek to have a clear and coherent expression of the political will, but merely to get a party government elected by hook or by crook, no matter what fraud is required to achieve that aim. The current fraudulent practice used to achieve victory is to spend a ton of money to appeal to small segments of the voters in a riding that will "make the difference."

The political parties of the establishment are no longer political. Collectively representing the neoliberal agenda and the various interests served by it, they have formed a cartel party system to preserve the status quo while they dispute the turf of state power amongst themselves. They lie, cheat and deceive the public in any way they can to get votes and deprive their rivals of them. They amend the electoral act to cover up all their rotten deeds and make its provisions ever more favourable to the very activities that wreck political authority. These developments further disinform the polity because individuals are no longer linked to the machine of government through political parties and their associations. It increasingly violates privacy rights as telemarketing schemes replace political action and citizens are converted into consumers of one scam or another.

The law, another which the Harper government has rammed through the Parliament, further disinforms the polity not only by depriving Canadians of their right to privacy but, most importantly, of their right to govern the society they depend on for their living.

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Incoherence and Violations of
Right to Privacy Increase

It is clear that the Conservative amendments to the Canada Election Act contained in Bill C-23 add more incoherence to an already incoherent law. The election law has now even lost its connection with the flawed premises upon which it was first enacted four decades ago. These four decades have seen the political parties in the House of Commons adopt self-serving reform after self-serving reform without regard for the rights of Canadians to elect and to be elected. Today, the law fully enables the mafia-like cartel party system to function with state subsidization and impunity. The most one can expect for violating the law is a slap on the wrist even when it involves the use of corrupt practices by elected officials.

The old notions and mechanisms that were used to claim that elections were fair and that were said to facilitate the involvement of the people in the democracy are in a state of disrepute. For instance, it has long been held that limits on candidate and party spending would guarantee that those with money cannot overwhelm the electoral process. Already, this was laughable because the limits only apply to the 36-day election campaign period. Political parties are allowed spend as much money as they can raise between election periods, while the governing party can add to that as much as it can take from government coffers to promote itself in the name of government advertising. The spending limits are the linchpin in the electoral regime's logic: by restricting what any candidate can spend to a set amount, currently averaging around $60,000, all Canadians have an equal chance to stand as a candidate and be elected. Similarly, political parties are only allowed to spend a certain amount, averaging about $15 million for a party that fields candidates in all ridings. The inherent logic here is that parties and candidates that exceed the limit will not get away with it, since they will have broken the rules of a "fair election."

In reality, the political parties of the establishment can act with impunity. The Liberal Sponsorship Scandal revealed bags of cash being handed over illegally to party organizers to pay campaign workers. Canadians never even found out who was elected through this illegal financing. It was said nobody could be charged because of the statute of limitations in the Canada Elections Act and the law was changed to extend the period during which charges could be laid. In the 2006 federal election, the Conservatives overspent by more than $1 million and faced no real repercussions. Five years later, they signed a plea bargain with the Public Prosecutor, paid a fine and went on to form a majority government.

With Bill C-23, in the name of not using a heavy hand unnecessarily, a system of monetary sanctions is officially in place for those who exceed the spending limit. State reimbursement for election expenses (60 per cent for candidates; 50 per cent for political parties) will be reduced if the spending limits are violated. For instance, if a candidate exceeds the spending limit by 10 per cent or more, the state reimbursement will be reduced by three dollars for every dollar that exceeds the limit. In other words, overspending to fish for extra votes in a tight race will become a matter of even more corrupt calculations and cover-ups than is already the case. This is a method of imposing a penalty without even the need to advise the public, let alone inform public opinion in a manner that the electorate could exercise a right to recall corrupt politicians!

Bill C-23 has also brought to the fore the extent to which the political parties in the House of Commons not only violate the right to privacy, but believe they should be allowed to do so by right which they say will enhance the democracy. The bill was passed in defiance of concerns raised that political parties have carte blanche to compile information about electors in their databases, such as the Conservative Party's Constituent Information Management System (CIMS) and the Liberal Party's Liberalist and similar systems in the hands of the NDP. Proposals to remove the privileged exemption of political parties from privacy legislation were ignored in this round of electoral amendments, as they have been in the past. While the Liberals, the NDP and the Green Party were opposed to many things in Bill C-23, on this question there was glaring silent collaboration.

The right to an informed vote is violated by the electoral law the minute it equates being informed with being the target of a political party's marketing. The cartel party system is comprised of organizations that have no members and function through marketing agencies, advertising companies, call centres and database management. The right to privacy has fallen victim to the electoral law's endorsement and facilitation of political parties gathering personal information and targeting individuals based on so-called personal preferences gathered by marketing agencies in other contexts mostly unrelated to political life. This will include income levels, lifestyle choices, retirement plans, level and field of education, professional status, leisure activities, choice of reading material, and a million other details used to profile Canadians for purposes of tailoring a message with the aim of either winning their vote or getting them not to vote at all.

There are several aspects of Bill C-23 which particularly offend the right to privacy. For instance, the Canada Election Act will now entitle representatives of candidates to examine the identification papers of electors at the polls if they choose. It is one thing to prove one's identity to an official of Elections Canada, which has the responsibility to ensure that only qualified electors cast ballots. Being required to show identity papers to a representative of a candidate is quite another thing. On the basis of what criteria will a partisan representative judge the outcome? What other information might this representative of a political party take from the identity papers?

This new provision also introduces an absurd situation. It specifies that no elector can be barred from voting for refusing to show a candidate's representative his or her identification documents, which begs the question why any elector would agree to submit to such scrutiny. The new provision sets the groundwork for chaos at the polls and the use of disruptive tactics.

Bill C-23 further extends to political parties access to information about Canadians by providing them for the first time with a comprehensive report, in the form of what are called Bingo Cards, which show who has voted at each poll. This information will go into a political party's database to further facilitate micro-targeting practices.

Since 2007, a representative of any candidate could pick up Bingo Cards at polling stations every half hour. This process required party workers in the field going poll to poll. Any Bingo Cards that were not picked up, were put into the sealed boxes with the election documents. As Canada's political parties do not have the membership or volunteers required to pick up Bingo Cards, they went largely unused except in targeted close-race ridings. Bill C-23 now requires the Deputy Returning Officer in each polling station to provide all of the Bingo Cards to each candidate after the election. The purported logic of the Bingo Cards was to assist political parties to "get out the vote." What is the logic of providing the candidates with this information after the election is over? The only reason can be to assist the data compilation of political parties that can afford to hire telemarketing companies to put together such a vast database and use it to determine the specific information they require. Combined with all the other information these databases contain on electors, this treatment of electors is deplorable. Without the permission of electors to collect this data about them, a fundamental breach of privacy rights, it is not difficult for these political parties to put together a list of who has voted for whom, which is a gross violation of the secret ballot.

What is the merit of a secret ballot? Was it not to avert coercion of any kind?

It is a matter of a person's conscience if they choose to vote and how. The voting process is supposed to be protected by the secret ballot so that the elector will not suffer reprisals of any kind from the most powerful. It was brought into being to stop MPs from depriving constituents of business licences, roads, permits and even citizenship and welfare payments if they were not supporters and did not vote "the right way." The information compiled by the political parties that form governments is designed to calculate who voted how and it is made much easier once they can eliminate all those who did not vote with the information provided on the Bingo Cards. It does not take much effort to imagine how the use of privilege can once again usurp the rights of all.

To provide political parties with information on who voted and who did not via the Bingo Cards is unacceptable. The right to conscience must be provided with a guarantee. In practical terms it means guaranteeing the right to cast or not cast a ballot without fear of consequence. In the absence of such measures, talk of "free and fair elections" is a farce.

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Broad Opposition to Harper Dictatorship

First Nations' Day of Resistance

On May 14, First Nations across Canada held a Day of Action to affirm their rights and reiterate their rejection of the colonial relationship with Canada that has been imposed on them and demand that modern nation-to-nation relations be established as the basis for moving forward. In particular, the rally opposed Bill C-33, the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act. The event also protested against the Harper government's refusal to establish a national inquiry into hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada. The Day of Resistance also opposed Bill C-10, the Contraband Tobacco Act, which aims to criminalize the selling, buying, or trading of tobacco without a federal excise tax stamp.

The main rally was held on Parliament Hill, where more than a thousand people gathered to present the just demands of First Nations.



Six Nations


Sault Ste. Marie


(Photos: S. Stewart, Red Power Media, C. Thomas Muller, T.T. Stacey, E. Montour, R. Sigel, J. Marie, C. Suggashie, Idle No More)

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Veterans' Mass Action

Veterans of the Canadian military rallied on Parliament Hill on June 4 to protest the unjust treatment they are facing from the Harper government. Veterans called the event "Rock the Hill" and their website explains that it was organized to denounce the "total breach of trust that this government has shown towards us and the disregard of the sacred oath that has been in place since World War I." The website also points out that veterans want to "enlighten the public on the amount of misinformation that this government is putting out..."

Veterans have been particularly upset by the so-called New Veterans Charter imposed by the Harper government, which eliminates the veterans' pension and replaces it with a one-time lump sum payment. The veterans said they feel betrayed by the government. They denounced the government's spending of millions of dollars on television ads that describe the government's services that veterans say are totally inadequate to meet the needs of injured and disabled veterans and their families.

The main speaker at the rally was Col. (Ret.) Pat Stogran, who was appointed as the first ombudsman for veterans and served from 2007 to 2010. He said that his experience in representing veterans was very frustrating and he was totally disillusioned by dealing with a "deceitful and disgraceful government." He called for the immediate repeal of the Veterans Charter and demanded that a Royal Commission of Inquiry be established to investigate the injustices to veterans carried out through the activities of the Department of Veterans Affairs. He was followed by several other speakers. The organizers concluded the rally saying, "This will not be just a one-day event, as we plan on staying as long as it takes!"

(Photos: M. Finns, H. Laffin, D. Slack)

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Community Actions


On May 2, local activists, environmentalists, injured workers and union members gathered to denounce the Harper government outside the Marconi Club in London, where Prime Minister Harper was visiting. His trip to London became known only 48 hours before his arrival, but that did not stop people from organizing to Stop Harper!

While in London, Harper visited Fanshawe College where he announced funding for paid internships for post-secondary graduates in high-demand fields. His visit to London came just two months after General Dynamics announced it had been awarded a 14-year, multi-billion dollar contract to build armoured vehicles for Saudi Arabia. According to the Federal Minister of International Trade, the contract will create and sustain more than 3,000 jobs a year across the country at 500 Canadian firms, with approximately 40 per cent of those jobs located in southwestern Ontario. The armoured vehicles will be designed and manufactured in London making the city the centre of a national supply chain. Officials say Harper was involved in the process to land the deal, which beat out competing bids from defence contractors in France and Germany.


On the evening of February 8, about 100 people including postal workers and youth -- many of them First Nations youth -- rallied outside the Metro Convention Centre to condemn Prime Minister Harper who was there at a banquet as a special guest of the Confederation of Greater Toronto Chinese Business Association.

The main theme of the rally was that Harper must go -- he has done enough damage to this country and its people. Various people spoke about the utter disregard that the Harper government has displayed for the concerns of the people. First Nations youth denounced Harper for his disregard for rights of aboriginal peoples and his catering to the rich and their interests. Other speakers denounced the Conservative government's cuts to social programs that have created insecurity and hardship for the people.

Speaking specifically of the recent attacks on the postal workers, Learie Charles, a representative of the Scarborough local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers said that the Harper government has mounted the biggest assault on the rights of the people by privatizing public assets including the privatization of the public post office, which is proceeding rapidly. He cited not only the loss of door-to-door delivery, but the closure of postal retail outlets and the laying off of thousands of postal workers. He spoke about the Harper government's attacks on public assets such as the sale of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited to the monopoly SNC-Lavalin. He noted that it is only the organized opposition of workers that can stop these assaults. Darryl Ellis, President of the CUPW Toronto Local thanked the people for coming out and said that other actions to keep the postal service in Canada public would be organized in the coming days and weeks.

(Photos: K. Jones, TML)

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Charter Challenge Against Fair Elections Act

On June 19, the day that Bill C-23, the Conservative government's widely opposed Fair Elections Act received royal assent, the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students announced that they would together mount a Charter challenge against the legislation on the grounds that it violates section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which enshrines the "right to vote in an election of the members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein."

It is reported in the media that their lawyer Steven Shrybman will challenge the constitutionality of the Bill C-23 provision which strips the powers of the Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand to the extent of even preventing him from encouraging citizens to vote, particularly to groups of voters "most likely to experience difficulties in exercising their democratic rights."

As well, the two groups will challenge the new voter ID provisions that make it more difficult for students, aboriginal peoples and seniors to vote. This is a concern for many Canadians, political organizations, academics and advocacy groups which opposed the tightening of voter ID restrictions on the basis of the self-serving fiction put forward by Harper's so-called Minister of Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre that there was widespread voter fraud in the federal election of 2011.

National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students Jessica McCormick stated that her organization decided to challenge the new law because it will further reduce the youth vote. She noted that in the last election only 38 per cent of students voted and that the Fair Elections Act will only reduce this number even more.

There is already an appeal before the Supreme Court from a case launched in British Columbia in 2007 in which three BC voters challenged the new voter ID requirements enacted by the Harper government in the first round of its electoral reforms. Prior to 2007, it was not necessary for a person to have ID in order to vote as long as his or her name appeared on the voter's list. In seeking to have their appeal heard by the Supreme Court, the three BC voters cited the Fair Elections Act and argued the court could provide "guidance" to federal and provincial legislatures on constitutional issues around voter ID laws. The Supreme Court has not made its decision on whether to hear the appeal.

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For Your Information

Bills Enacted in Second Session of 41st Parliament

There were 25 bills enacted in the Second Session of the 41st Parliament which are:

C-4: A second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures -- Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2

C-5: An Act to amend the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and other Acts and to provide for certain other measures -- Offshore Health and Safety Act

C-7: An Act to amend the Museums Act in order to establish the Canadian Museum of History and to make consequential amendments to other Acts -- Canadian Museum of History Act

C-9: An Act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain First Nations and the composition of council of those First Nations -- First Nations Elections Act

C-14: An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (mental disorder) -- Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act

C-15: An Act to replace the Northwest Territories Act to implement certain provisions of the Northwest Territories Lands and Resources Devolution Agreement and to repeal or make amendments to the Territorial Lands Act, the Northwest Territories Waters Act, the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, other Acts and certain orders and regulations -- Northwest Territories Devolution Act

C-16: An Act to give effect to the Governance Agreement with Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and to make consequential amendments to other Acts -- Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Governance Act

C-19: An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2014 -- Appropriation Act No. 4, 2013-14

C-20: An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Honduras, the Agreement on Environmental Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Honduras and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Honduras -- Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act

C-23: An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts -- Fair Elections Act

C-24: An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts -- Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act

C-25: An Act respecting the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band Order -- Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Act

C-28: An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2014 -- Appropriation Act No. 5, 2013-14

C-29: An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2015 -- Appropriation Act No. 1, 2014-15

C-30: An Act to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Canada Transportation Act and to provide for other measures -- Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act

C-31: An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures -- Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1

C-34: An Act to give effect to the Tla'amin Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts -- Tla'amin Final Agreement Act

C-37: An Act to change the names of certain electoral districts and to amend the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment -- Act Riding Name Change Act, 2014

C-38: An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2015 -- Appropriation Act No. 2, 2014-15

C-39: An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2015 -- Appropriation Act No.3 , 2014-15

C-217: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief relating to war memorials)

C-394: An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (criminal organization recruitment)

C-444: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer)

C-462: An Act restricting the fees charged by promoters of the disability tax credit and making consequential amendments to the Tax Court of Canada Act -- Disability Tax Credit Promoters Restrictions Act

C-489: An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders)

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Excerpt from Canadian Federal Political Parties and Personal Privacy Protection: A Comparative Analysis

Two years ago, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada commissioned a study on privacy issues and political parties. The study was done by Colin J. Bennett, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Victoria and Robin M. Bayley (BA, MPA, University of Victoria), President of Linden Consulting Inc., Privacy & Policy Advisors.

During the Bill C-23 hearings of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Professor Bennet appeared and once again raised the concerns about privacy. He reminded the Senators of the many efforts made by Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand and others to have the privacy issues related to the electoral law addressed. He pointed out that not only have these problems continued, but Bill C-23 will exacerbate the dangers posed to the right to privacy. Below is an excerpt with an overview of how databases kept by the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and Greens function based on the limited knowledge available.


From various sources, we can begin to build some idea of how data on voter identification is captured and processed. The starting-point appears to be the poll-by-poll results released by Elections Canada after the prior election. These are searchable online, and provide a listing of polls in each riding, and the raw number of votes cast for each candidate at that poll. Parties then can cross-reference this data with the list of electors and addresses provided by Elections Canada. These data provide the "basement starting point" for building more complete databases on voters' attitudes, affiliations and intentions.

We know that each of the main political parties has developed their own customized databases, using off-the-shelf voter list management software, either for download to a desktop personal computer or laptop, or for access through the Internet.

The Conservative Party of Canada uses the Constituent Information Management System (CIMS) reportedly the first centralized Canadian system for voter management developed back in 2004. The Liberal Party has introduced "Liberalist" a "Voter identification and relationship management system" -- similar to the US Democratic Party's Voter Activation Network. That system, we are told, will: "Easily keep track of your membership levels, donors, sign requests and supporters; manage your local campaign team, events and volunteers; strategically contact voters by telephone, e-mail, canvass or direct mail; map out support and opposition across your riding down to a household level; track key or emerging local and national issues; facilitate grassroots campaigns using Obama's neighbour-to-neighbour model; develop micro-targeted and demographic-specific messaging." The NDP uses its own custom database system called "NDP Vote."

In the absence of an oversight authority that is authorized to audit or investigate these systems, evidence on what is included in these databases tends to be anecdotal and speculative. The practices of the parties probably also differ in some significant ways. Howard and Kriess suggest that parties might capture information about voters from a variety of sources including: publicly stated positions (such as letters to local newspapers or postings on blogs); public petitions; telephone polling; canvassing by phone, writing or on the doorstep; donor databases; and by the observations of party volunteers who record the addresses at which opposition election signs are posted. Inferences about party preferences and voting intentions (strong, leaning, or none) can be gleaned from many places. From these sources, parties can track key issues and voting trends for use in polling, advertising, direct mailing and strategy formation, especially in marginal seats. These data are now considered crucial for parties in making decisions about how, when and where to target their limited resources. Given the number of Canadian elections over the last ten years, the data have been refreshed quite regularly.

The party, which provides the most detail about the operation of its voter management system, is the Liberals. The Liberalist website contains a significant amount of information for party members in the form of FAQs and User Guides. We know, for instance that Liberalist provides three levels of access: Basic (for new users); Intermediate (for those allowed to a Search facility); and Advanced (allowing for the creation of lists and contacts). Liberalist is divided into two groups: MyVoters, the complete Elections Canada list of voters in the riding; and SharedContacts, anyone who may have had contact with the Liberal campaign in that district. The User Guide then offers instructions on creating and managing lists, door canvassing, phone canvassing, robocalling, e-mail "blasting," volunteer and event management, and get-out-the-vote strategies.

Some of these practices are long-standing and uncontroversial. But it is questionable that the average voter would expect doorstep conversations with party canvassers about current issues to be recorded, along with their identity and address. Even raising concerns or asking the representative about the party's policies on pensions, schools or health care can be done in a way that divulges employment, family and health status. Sharing such information with canvassers entails privacy risks. Canvassers may live in the same community and may be temporarily active in the party and not subject to training about the appropriate use of personal information. Parties are also beginning to use applications for their mobile devices, which allows them to send information directly from their canvassing activities to central databases. The Liberals, for instance, are now reportedly using the Voter Activation Network's "MiniVan" app for the i-Phone and i-Pad.

Often we get anecdotal reports on party practices from ex-politicians. Garth Turner was dismissed from the Conservative caucus in 2006, and ultimately crossed to the Liberals. He later blogged about the Conservative Party's use of the CIMs database in the 2004 campaign: "When I went to bang on doors in a neighborhood, my team dug into CIMS, and printed out a walk list for the poll. It told me who lived in each house on each street, along with any known information on what party they support. Every name was followed by a bar code. After talking to each person, I assessed their political leaning and marked it on my sheet. Back at the campaign office, teams of people keyed in the data while using bar code readers to match it up with voters' names." It was reported at the time that the Liberals and the NDP have separate databases for voter tracking and constituency management.

Of course, some voters will have individual contact with their MPs from time to time. If a voter or potential voter discloses personal information to his or her MP in order to seek assistance with a problem, that MP might legally disclose the information in a number of ways, including to a relevant minister or agency, or in the course of parliamentary proceedings. That disclosure would generally fall under the doctrine of parliamentary privilege. Should that MP enter the personal information into an electoral database for the purpose of party fundraising, however, this use or disclosure would presumably fall outside the doctrines of parliamentary privilege, and would also probably fall outside the reasonable expectations of the Canadian electorate. Could it also have a chilling effect on voters' willingness to contact their elected representatives? Furthermore, if communications with elected officials are merged with voter data, the potential for differential treatment based on political support is a serious risk that could undermine the integrity and fairness of our representative system. On the other hand, there is nothing in current Canadian law that prevents this form of data-sharing or data linkage.

Parties may also populate their voter management databases from non-identifiable, but geographically precise information from other sources, such as Statistics Canada. They have also begun to use geo-demographic databases available from marketing companies. Employing systems such as "Prizm" from Environics Analytics, the parties can break down a population in a critical riding into a large number of types. It has been reported that the Conservative Party has been combining these data with internal polling information since the 2006 election to allow more and more refined segmentation according to a host of demographic and attitudinal variables, permitting ever more precise targeting of specific messages.

The power and implications of these "micro-targeting" technologies is readily evident from the marketing pitches on the Environics website: "With consumer segmentation, businesses and not-for-profits can classify their customers according to shared demographic, lifestyle and behavioral traits. Our pioneering PRIZM C2 segmentation system captures the diversity of Canada's population using 66 segments based on the most important drivers of consumer behaviour: demographics, lifestyles and values." For example: "Gaybourhoods provides neighbourhood-level data on the propensity of residents to be gay and details the spending potential of the gay population for key categories. Derived from a variety of sources, Gaybourhoods is currently available for the first wave of major metros, including Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver."

Finally, of course, parties are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their uses of social media to get targeted messages across to supporters. The political use of social media has generated a good deal of research in Canada, as elsewhere. The extent to which parties process and mine the enormous amounts of user-generated data from sites such as Facebook and Twitter is less well known. Numerous companies now track social media for marketing purposes. Those data already constitute a rich source of "voter intelligence" in the United States and have become, according to some sources, a key strategic advantage for the Obama campaign in the 2012 election.

All the websites of the major parties have links to a variety of social media platforms. To differing extents, these sites encourage the sharing of personal information. For instance, the exercise of the "Like" button in Facebook displays the icon of that party on that individual's social media page, perhaps unintentionally displaying that individual's political beliefs. Friending a political party on Facebook without the user implementing the appropriate privacy controls can result in the users' name and photo being listed on the parties' social media page. Thus, the practices of Canada's political parties, and the privacy rights of their members, are closely related to the privacy policies and mechanisms embedded within these social media platforms, as well as to the privacy choices that individuals make according to varying degrees of knowledge about privacy and sophistication about the technology.

Information on Candidates, Volunteers and Employees

There is a trend for political parties to ask more and more increasingly sensitive information of candidates for political office, under the logic that they do not want embarrassing personal information to be revealed in the heat of a campaign. This long standing vetting process has become more comprehensive as technologies have grown more sophisticated. Most political parties administer an extensive questionnaire including authorizations for information to be communicated to the party from federal agencies such as the Canada Revenue Agency, the Canadian Border Services Agency and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.


Finally, and a little recognized aspect of this issue concerns the extent to which parties might be collecting information through clearly commercial activity. Two parties sell a variety of products on their websites: logo clothing, signs, books and other souvenirs. Arguably, these commercial activities are covered by PIPEDA or other substantially similar provincial legislation governing the private sector. Privacy policies for the online stores are posted and give the typical assurances. Purchases of party merchandise may provide clear indications of potential support. These privacy policies do indicate, however, that there is no disclosure of personal information from the commercial operations to the electoral arms of the parties.

The Conservative Party of Canada uses a third party to operate its online store, where logo wear and other branded items are sold. This commercial enterprise has its own, fairly extensive, privacy policy (that of Brymark Promotions Inc. of Ottawa). That policy indicates that personal information may be shared with third party advertisers, that it may be used for satisfaction surveys, and that an opportunity will be provided to opt-out of subscriptions, indicating that one could get on a mailing list if one makes a purchase. It also has a description of information security practices and a disclaimer that transmission of information is at the risk of the individual. The response to an inquiry to the company could also result in an individual getting on a mailing or call list. The policy also indicates that personal information provided for the purpose of making a purchase is only used for order fulfillment and is not shared.

The Green Party's online store, GPC Gear, also has a separate privacy policy that indicates it will "never share or sell your personal information with any third parties," describes its information security and provides contact information for questions.

Risks to Privacy

The conclusion of this survey suggests that parties can, and do, collect a significant amount and variety of information on Canadian citizens, only some of which is openly understood and regulated by the CEA. The personal information practices of political parties affect their employees, donors, volunteers, members and supporters as well as registered voters whose information they obtain from Elections Canada. They can also affect anyone with whom the parties' canvassers come in contact. A disparate and fluctuating number of employees and volunteers might also have access to these data -- individuals who may have no privacy training. Increasingly the data are communicated through highly mobile electronic formats.

Privacy risks come in a number of forms, and stem from various sources. Some risks include personal information getting into the wrong hands or being used for unauthorized purposes. Information can also get into the wrong hands through carelessness, lack of appropriate controls, inappropriate sharing, or nefarious intent. This may result in harm to individuals in terms of identity theft, harassment or the denial of services and rights. The various complaints to federal and provincial privacy commissioners over the years provide ample testimony to the range of serious harms that individuals can suffer when basic privacy rules are not followed.

Beyond the individual risks, there are also social risks as individuals lose trust in organizations when it is discovered that personal data is being used and disclosed for purposes they were not aware of, and to which they had not consented. There are social costs to excessive monitoring, just as there is a social value in ensuring that personal information is only collected, used, and disclosed for legitimate and transparent purposes.

With respect to political parties, a series of incidents that might prove a harbinger of further trends have already occurred. We report them in chronological order.

In 2006, Conservative Party MP Cheryl Gallant sent birthday cards to her constituents using data from passport applications. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada was asked by several of her constituents to investigate this incident, even though she could not, for lack of jurisdiction. The Office of the Ethics Commissioner subsequently took up the matter under the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons. Although the Ethics Commissioner did not find that there was any breach of the code because no "private interest" was advanced, he did remind MPs of Canada's privacy protection laws and that: "As legislators, members should be guided by the principles they themselves have established in the various pieces of legislation related to the privacy of information That is, personal information should only be used for the purpose for which it is gathered, or for a use consistent with that purpose." Thus, an officer of Parliament has established the principle that despite Canadian privacy laws not applying to Members of Parliament, their treatment of personal information should be guided by the very principles derived from those laws.

Also in 2006, the RCMP found lists of voter names and addresses in the office of a Toronto cell of the Tamil Tigers, classified as a terrorist organization. The documents were allegedly used to target potential supporters of the Tamil cause. The case was later cited in a larger Privacy Commissioner audit report of four government agencies. The Commissioner commented, "maintaining full control of electoral documents is a significant challenge."

In October 2007, Rosh Hashanah cards were sent by the Prime Minister's Office to supporters with Jewish sounding names, many of whom were reportedly unsettled by this practice, and left wondering how such a list could be compiled. The Privacy Commissioner received a number of complaints about this incident, but determined that the issue fell outside her jurisdiction. Religious beliefs are widely considered to be some of the most sensitive personal information, warranting special protections.

In April 2011, a Conservative Candidate from Winnipeg mistakenly sent a misdirected e-mail, containing the names, address, phone numbers and e-mails of six thousand of her constituents to a local environmental activist. The case prompted several to question why candidates receive this information in the first place. The incident also highlights the need to ensure that candidates understand privacy principles and how to safeguard personal information entrusted to them.

In the context of the reform of Nova Scotia's election laws in 2011, the provincial Privacy Review Officer raised objections to the fact that the provincial chief electoral office was providing political parties with voters' year of birth. Ostensibly this information was provided to promote turnout among young people. Review Officer Dulcie McCullum said that she did not believe that Nova Scotians would be comfortable allowing parties to regularly compile lists that have each voter's year of birth attached to their name, address and voting rate.

In the 2011 election, a woman from Oshawa complained that email correspondence with her MP about changes to CRTC regulations resulted in her receiving Conservative campaign literature. In response, a Conservative party spokesman stated that it was party policy to remove a name from distribution lists on request.


Finally, the recent 2012 controversies over potential vote suppression in key ridings through the practice of "robocalling" are, at writing, still under investigation by Elections Canada and by the RCMP. Regardless of the results of these investigations into voter suppression, these incidents have shed light upon the previously opaque internal practices of political parties. Voters have learned, for instance, that their information is disclosed to telemarketing organizations, some of whom may reside outside Canada. They have learned that many of the CRTC's calling rules do not apply to political parties. The online and offline commentary on these controversies have been extensive, and demonstrate a high level of interest and engagement in the broader issues about Canadian electoral processes. Not far beneath the surface, however, lay a number of unanswered privacy-related questions.


Even as data practices support political participation and mobilization, they come with a social cost. While the risks of poor data management practices may be partially borne by political parties, ultimately it is citizens whose personal records have been compromised. Political data is collected and traded on a vast and opaque market, with documented cases of breaches in security. Meanwhile, the extent and nature of political data has the potential to threaten associational freedom, as citizens become increasingly aware that much of their online and offline behavior is subject to monitoring and act accordingly.

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