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Statcan’s plan to harvest private banking info on hold, pending investigation

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  • OTTAWA — Statistics Canada’s controversial plan to harvest personal financial data without people’s consent is on hold until an investigation of the legality and intrusiveness of the project is finished, the country’s chief statistician said Thursday. 

    The federal statistical agency recently caught nine financial institutions off guard by informing them they were required to provide banking information from Canadians in 500,000 households across the country. Canadian law lets Statistics Canada compel public and private institutions, including commercial banks, to turn over data they hold.

    The ensuing public outrage has put a spotlight on Canada’s privacy laws, which critics have called outdated and inadequate in an era where privacy fears are deepening and data is becoming an increasingly valuable commodity.

    The concerns have triggered heated political exchanges in the House of Commons, where opposition MPs have accused the government of state surveillance and authoritarianism. Under frequent grilling by the Conservatives, the governing Liberals have insisted the agency will protect Canadians’ privacy while producing important, reliable data.

    The uproar has also stirred up serious concerns in the financial institutions that were contacted — and prompted federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien to launch an investigation into the matter.

    Facing intensifying public pressure, chief statistician Anil Arora told a Senate committee Thursday that the banking-data project will not proceed until Therrien has finished his work and Canadians’ privacy concerns have been addressed.

    “We have not received a single piece of information yet from any of those financial institutions,” he told the committee, which held a special hearing to explore the issue.

    Even so, he said, the data the agency wants would stay secret.

    “Who do we share this information with? No one,” Arora said. “The individual record is not shared with a minister, with a court, with law enforcement officers, CSIS, you name it — nobody gets access to that individual record.”

    Arora defended the “pilot project” as part of Statistics Canada’s efforts to modernize and improve its data-collection efforts, which are meant to help the agency continue providing high-quality information — especially given the rapid expansion of the digital economy. For decades, the agency has provided key data to help guide everything from financial markets to the Bank of Canada to lawmakers drawing up social programs.

    The new plan, however, only became public following a recent report by Global News. Even Therrien, whose office was consulted on the project by Statistics Canada, said he had no idea about its scope until “very recently.”

    “We were all struck in the recent news by the amount of data (sought) from a large number of dwellings in a very detailed way,” Therrien told the Senate committee Thursday. “I think that’s what strikes everyone — large segments of the population — as an important part of the issue.”

    The investigation, which is expected to last months, will conclude whether Statistics Canada’s plan is lawful or not, he said.

    The privacy commissioner also recalled his 2016 recommendation that the law be amended to authorize government agencies to collect data only when necessary, and when the breadth of the information gathered is proportional to the public-policy goals. That would bring Canada’s laws in line with international standards, Therrien added.

    At one point in his appearance, Therrien was asked by a senator whether he thought the government had been transparent about its intentions from the start.

    “I think it was certainly a surprise,” Therrien replied after a pause. “We did not know about the numbers until very recently. I think this is a crucial fact.”

    He continued by saying Statistics Canada took some steps to be transparent, “but obviously they fell way short.”

    “I have to conclude, given where we are today, that the measures that Statistics Canada took were deficient on the issue of transparency, for sure,” Therrien said.

    There were several attempts Thursday to score political points in the committee chamber. Carolyn Stewart Olsen, a Conservative senator, described the data-gathering plan as “almost totalitarian in its scope” and suggested many Canadians will begin to think we’re living in an “Orwellian nightmare.”

    Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s former information and privacy commissioner, told the committee she’s been hearing concerns the section of the Statistics Act compelling institutions, like banks, to provide records to the agency could be unconstitutional.

    She said amendments are needed — and it’s not just a legal issue, but a moral one.

    “The prospect of surveillance on the part of government is very objectionable to most people, and it’s viewed as a major invasion of their privacy and their freedom,” Cavoukian said. “Justification for the need for personal data from Stats Canada does not justify extracting it directly from citizens’ banks without their knowledge or consent.”

    The committee also heard from Neil Parmenter, who heads the Canadian Bankers Association.

    He said the industry still has many serious concerns about the request and many unanswered questions. The banks welcome Therrien’s investigation.

    Asked if the industry intends to take the matter to the courts, Parmenter said: “I wouldn’t want to pre-judge and speak for individual actions, but I’d say all options are on the table.”

    Follow @AndyBlatchford on Twitter

    Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press



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    MPs continue voting marathon as Tories protest shutdown of Wilson-Raybould motion

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  • OTTAWA — Members of Parliament are continuing their marathon voting session as opposition parties protest the Trudeau government’s efforts to shut down any further investigation into the SNC-Lavalin affair.

    The Liberal majority shot down a Conservative motion calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to let former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould testify more fully about her allegation that she was improperly pressured to drop a criminal prosecution of the Montreal-based engineering giant.

    The motion was defeated by a vote of 161-134.

    That set the stage for a Conservative-sponsored filibuster Wednesday night, requiring 257 separate votes on items in the government’s spending estimates.

    Former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott is adding more fuel to the fire in an interview with Maclean’s magazine.

    She says in the interview that there’s “much more to the story that should be told.”

    Philpott resigned from cabinet over the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin controversy earlier this month.

    Since any vote involving government spending is automatically considered a confidence vote, Liberals were required to be out in force to avoid potential defeat of the government.

    The voting could theoretically last 36 hours, but the Conservatives have only to keep it going until just after 10 a.m. today to scrub the remainder of the parliamentary day.

     

    The Canadian Press


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    ‘It has to send a message:’ Broncos families await sentencing for truck driver

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  • Kevin Matechuk says he will never, never forgive the semi driver who caused the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

    Matechuk’s 19-year-old son Layne of Colonsay, Sask., is still coping with a brain injury he suffered in the collision last April. The young man’s recovery is expected to be a long one.

    The trucker who blew through a stop sign and caused the crash, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu of Calgary, is to be sentenced in Melfort, Sask., on Friday.

    “I know he purposely didn’t go out to kill all those people but he did … run that stop sign,” Matechuk said recently from the family’s temporary home in Saskatoon.

    “It was his fault.”

    Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured when the transport truck drove into the path of the junior hockey team’s bus at a rural Saskatchewan intersection.

    Court heard that Sidhu went by four signs warning about the upcoming intersection before he came up to an oversized stop sign with a flashing light. His lawyer told court Sidhu was an inexperienced driver distracted by a flapping tarp on the back of his load.

    Sidhu, 30, pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving and apologized in court. The Crown has asked that he serve 10 years in prison. The defence did not propose a specific sentence but said other cases point to between 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 years.

    Family members submitted 90 victim impact statements during an emotional sentencing hearing in January. Some said they forgive Sidhu, while others said they are too angry.

    “It’s funny how the wide range of different people feel and everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” said Matechuk.

    Melanie Smith of Leduc, Alta., whose 20-year-old son Tyler was also injured, said she’ll be glad to have the court case over with.

    “We’re content about how it turned out with him pleading guilty to all 29 counts and the emotion he showed,” she said.

    “We don’t really have any thoughts either way on what he ends up getting sentenced. The problem is you either have to forgive or you somehow have to get past whose fault it was. It was his fault. And as a family we’re content.”

    Former NHL player Chris Joseph of St. Albert, Alta., lost his 20-year-old son Jaxon in the crash.

    He said forgiveness won’t bring his son back. And he’s going to be disappointed in whatever sentence Sidhu gets.

    “I don’t know if there’s any number that would make me happy,” he said.

    “He did the crime. He needs to do the time. And we would like the legal system to show that it doesn’t matter that you feel bad. It’s nice that you feel bad. It doesn’t matter though.”

    Michelle Straschnitzki’s 19-year-old son, Ryan, from Airdrie, Alta., was paralyzed from the chest down. She said she has days when she would like to think forgiveness is possible.

    But her anger overwhelms those feelings.

    “There are days that it’s no — no matter what. Nothing’s going to be OK again and 16 people are gone and the lives of 13 children are still in flux.”

    She wants the judge to give Sidhu a harsh sentence.

    “It has to be more than a slap on the wrist. It has to send a message,” she said.

    “Unfortunately it won’t really change anything, but it has to make a difference and change people’s minds.”

    — Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

    Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press



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    march, 2019

    fri8mar - 30aprmar 85:30 pmapr 30Real Estate Dinner Theatre5:30 pm - (april 30) 10:00 pm

    sat23mar10:00 am- 4:00 pmLet Them Be Little Market10:00 am - 4:00 pm

    sat23mar1:00 pm- 4:00 pmMAGSaturday @ the MuseumMAGnificent Saturdays welcomes all ages and abilities to participate in a fun art project every week! 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

    sat23mar8:00 pm- 10:30 pmA Night at the Movies8:00 pm - 10:30 pm

    sat23mar8:00 pm- 8:00 pmA Night at the Movies8:00 pm - 8:00 pm

    sat30mar - 31mar 3010:00 ammar 319th Annual Central Alberta Family Expo10:00 am - 5:00 pm (31)

    sat30mar1:00 pm- 4:00 pmMAGSaturday @ the MuseumMAGnificent Saturdays welcomes all ages and abilities to participate in a fun art project every week! 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

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