The Canadian government is considering a law that would allow it to collect information on people who are leaving the country. Canada is the only member of the five-nation security group (which includes the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand) that does not already record this kind of information about its own citizens.
Thousands cross border daily
To pass the law would fulfill a promise made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he visited U.S. President Obama in March. Between 16,000 and 19,000 cross the border between the two countries every day.
The law would enable Canadian agencies to access information collected by U.S. officials when anyone travels by land from Canada to the U.S. It would also give Canadian authorities access to the manifests collected by airlines about passengers travelling on their planes.
The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale says new measures to collect information on people exiting the country would fix ‘a hole… in our security framework.’
Exit info has many uses
The government says this will help it track what it calls high-risk travellers like sex offenders, fugitives of justice and human or drug smugglers. It would also help to deal quickly with reports of abducted children or to identify people who are overstaying visas or otherwise staying in Canada illegally.
Privacy will be protected, promises the minister.
Hackers worry security expert
Security and intelligence expert and Prof. Wesley Wark says privacy is always a concern with this type of data collection but he is more concerned about hackers.
“There’s been a lot of concern over the years in Canada and elsewhere about data breaches where various malicious actors. You know, criminal groups, hackers, foreign governments are going after information held by the Canadian government and this big data base will be an attractive target. So, it will have to be properly locked down.”Listen
Not sure how effective data collection will be
Wark adds that this collection of data is meant not to be a major tool to ensure security, but rather one of many. He adds that only time will tell how effective it will be.
The information to be collected about those leaving the country will include name, birth date, citizenship of nationality, sex, travel document type and number and name of the country that issued the document, as well as ports of entry and exit.