OTTAWA — The House of Commons ethics committee is calling on the health minister to explain the Public Health Agency of Canada’s collection of data from millions of mobile phones to understand travel patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Opposition MPs on the committee fear the pandemic is being used to undermine the privacy of Canadians who were not aware that a government agency has been collecting mobile-phone data.
During an emergency meeting Thursday, the committee of MPs passed a motion asking Jean-Yves Duclos and Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, to appear before it to answer questions on the policy.
The House is still on its winter break but four opposition MPs on the committee asked for an emergency session after the Public Health Agency published a notice indicating it plans to extend the data-collection practice.
Conservative, Bloc Québécois and NDP MPs on the committee have raised concerns about the privacy implications of the policy.
In December, the Public Health Agency issued a new request for proposals to track countrywide cell tower-based location data between Jan. 1, 2019 and May 31, 2023.
The notice says the data must be accurate, accessible and timely, as well as ensuring privacy and transparency. It must be stripped of all identifying information.
The request for proposals had been due to end before MPs returned to Parliament after their winter break but has now been extended until Feb. 4, said John Brassard, Conservative ethics spokesman and a member of the committee.
Brassard has said the collection of data by the Public Health Agency raises numerous “red flags” about privacy.
Addressing the committee on Thursday, he said the Public Health Agency had been “collecting data without the knowledge of Canadians, effectively doing it in secret.”
“We need to know what security measures were in place to protect the privacy rights of Canadians,” he said.
The Public Health Agency said in a statement that it had informed the privacy commissioner about the process, and has been advised by its own privacy and ethics experts too.
“Minister Duclos has also been in communication with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and has underlined PHAC’s ongoing commitment to protecting and preserving the privacy of citizens and people in Canada while ensuring that Canada has the data needed to understand and inform our ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said.
Greg Fergus, a Liberal member of the privacy committee, said that all members of the committee agree it is “important to protect Canadians’ privacy rights.”
But he said that the information was aggregate data which had been “depersonalized so there is no information that can identify individuals.”
“It is unfair to say that we are tracking Canadians. That is not at all the case,” Fergus told the committee. “When we request depersonalized data that cannot identify a person it is simply data.”
The Public Health Agency said that “by analyzing population movement data, we can better understand the public’s responsiveness to public-health directives.”
It said that in December 2020, it established a “sole-source contract” with a telecom operator which expired in October 2021.
“PHAC is now launching a request for proposal process as a means to continue the collection of this data through an open and transparent process,” it said in a statement.
Brassard last week wrote to the privacy commissioner, Daniel Therrien, to ask him to investigate the matter.
In a statement, the commissioner’s office said it had not opened a formal investigation. But it said, after receiving complaints alleging violations of privacy, it would “turn our attention to the means chosen to deidentify the data mobility information.”
In 2020, the commissioner’s office published a document about privacy and initiatives in response to COVID-19 which cautioned institutions to be aware of the risk of reidentifying anonymized information.
The government did not ask the commissioner for specific advice about whether there were “adequate safeguards against reidentification,” it said.
“The government relied on other experts to that end, which is their prerogative,” the commissioner’s office said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2022.
Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press
This is not just another protest – Freedom Convoy is heading to Ottawa
We are a peaceful country that has helped protect nations across the globe from tyrannical governments who oppressed their people, and now it seems it is happening here. We are taking our fight to the doorsteps of our Federal Government and demanding that they cease all mandates against its people. Small businesses are being destroyed, homes are being destroyed, and people are being mistreated and denied fundamental necessities to survive. It’s our duty as Canadians to put an end to this mandates. It is imperative that this happens because if we don’t our country will no longer be the country we have come to love. We are doing this for our future Generations and to regain our lives back.
Sunday morning in Vancouver
Sunday morning outside Vancouver
Sunday morning at Abbotsford, BC. Amazing turn out In Abby this morning! Video from Shari Decker
Freedom Convoy to Ottawa coming through Langley, BC, at the crack of dawn on Jan 23, 2022. Video from Jacob Lequijt
Highway 2 North Lacombe overpass just after 10 PM Sunday night
Joining the convoy from Aluc, New Brunswick on Sunday afternoon. Video from 91.9 The Bend
A message from Ontario police Constable Erin Howard representing “Police On Guard”
From Acheson, Alberta (West Edmonton)
Leaving Calgary Monday morning.
Corporate Capture & Youth Checkout: The Covid Scorecard
The decade past has witnessed a Great Realignment. (Mind we said realignment, not reset.) The election of Barack Obama through Donald Trump and Covid-19 has seen a tectonic shift in the plates beneath society. Alliances have been broken. Power has shifted. Loyalties have disappeared.
The result is a new coalition, a cult alliance of tech, knowledge-based industry, culture and corporatism. Under cover of social unrest and virus paranoia these former antagonists found common cause in punishing the middle and lower classes of society for not acknowledging their elevated, superior status. (Translation: they voted for Trump.)
These woke apostles are unapologetic. Through censorship, cancel culture and financial, leverage they’ve created an oligopoly unabashed in bare-knuckled self-interest. And to constantly remind you that they’re in charge.
To understand how revolutionary this alliance is one need only recall the dirigiste fervour of the 1960s. While it seemed to everyone at the time that society might tip in the maelstrom of riot and protest, the corporate side never blinked. They viewed the Weathermen and the Red Brigade as fringe outfits that would never see power. They held to the status quo (or privilege in today’s CRT newspeak.)
That has changed, because of writers such as French socialist economist Thomas Piketty. Thanks to him Corporate America is now obsessed with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), not shareholder value. It is dominated by HR departments deeply committed to radical notions of social justice and racial equity. Inspired by the example of Michelle Obama, they’ve made Wall Street into Woke Street.
As we wrote in February of 2021 “the New Left now ruthlessly employs Big Tech, Wall Street and the media against its idealogical enemies— including some of its former allies… the Democratic Party of 2021 has morphed from brave to slave, dedicated to intellectual conformity, not contrary opinions. Gone are the civil libertarians like (William) Kunstler. In their place are AOC and her brigades of SJWs purveying hate-speech laws and attacking deniers of the “true climate religion”. First amendment rights have been replaced by cancel-culture indictments.”
Jordan B. Peterson, who recently resigned his tenured position at University of Toronto, describes the corporate submission: “What in the world is wrong with you? Can’t you see that the ideologues who push such appalling nonsense are driven by an agenda that is not only absolutely antithetical to your free-market enterprise, as such, but precisely targeted at the freedoms that made your success possible?
“Can’t you see that by going along, sheep-like (just as the professors are doing; just as the artists and writers are doing) that you are generating a veritable fifth column within your businesses? Are you really so blind, cowed and cowardly?”
While this corporate surrender has transpired, another schism has developed under cover of the Covid-19 pandemic panic. Its effect could be just as enduring. This one is based on age.
The group in society most vulnerable to the ravages of the pandemic is the 55+ cohort, the aging Boomers— the same one orchestrating the reaction to the virus. They are also the most afraid of its impact on them personally. It would be no exaggeration to say those health concerns have been reflected in the overbearing lockdown, mask, distancing and detention policies used against the virus. The generation that once worshipped free speech was quick to abandon civil liberties in its panic to save its own hide.
But younger generations who are far less vulnerable to the virus are tired of being participants in the psycho-dramas of aging the Boomers and their death phobia. And they’ve reached their end. They now flock to clubs, arenas and stadiums to see their friends. They know some of them will get sick, but 99.99 percent of them will be fine even if infected.
They are dismissive of the political shell game of their elders and the autocrats of Big Health. And, as we can see from one of the major sports, they’re headed in a new direction.
NHL players, God bless ‘em, have recognized that old people’s worries are not their worries. For months the league has gone with the Covid catechism to please politicians. Players were ordered to be vaccinated. Anyone testing positive from the wonky PCR test was sidelined. Even asymptomatic players. Games were played with undermanned rosters.
With 100 percent vaccinated, the league still saw 70 percent of players test positive. So the NHL now says “No more”. Only players who show symptoms will be removed from play. Excellent athletes are not 81-year-old U.S. senators shaking in their Depends.
With the accepted narrative now collapsing— Britain has abandoned the mask and lockdown mandates— more jurisdictions will do contrition for overshooting the mark. Dottering Joe Biden can talk about belatedly sending out 400 million masks, but he’s lost the room. Under 50s have moved on.
The only question is how long the ESG folks propping him up will wait before he’s sent overboard. While health is important, everything is second to their power.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). The best-selling author was nominated for the BBN Business Book award of 2020 for Personal Account with Tony Comper. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book with his son Evan Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History is now available on http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx
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