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The Government of Canada is aiming to create “clear and stringent standards” around the examination of personal digital devices – likes cell phones and laptops – at the Canadian border.
The examination of devices is critical to border protection and for intercepting prohibited material, like child pornography, Ottawa says, and the action is rare, affecting just 0.009 per cent of all travellers entering Canada in 2021.
Still, it’s a “highly effective” procedure, uncovering a contravention in 27 per cent of all cases, the government says.
That said, all examinations of personal digital devices must still respect privacy rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On Thursday (March 31), Senator Marc Gold, Government Representative in the Senate, on behalf of Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety, introduced a Bill to strengthen the framework around the examination of devices by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol preclearance officers operating in Canada.
The Bill will "create standards that must be met before a traveller's device can be examined," the Canadian government said in a statement yesterday.
It proposes changes to the Customs Act and the Preclearance Act, 2016 that further protect the rights of travellers with respect to examinations of devices without compromising the ability to secure the border.
The Bill proposes changes that include:
- Establishing a new threshold that must be met before the initiation of a personal digital device examination, which requires reasonable general concern;
- Creating an authority to examine documents on personal digital devices in the Customs Act and the Preclearance Act, 2016. This is required to differentiate devices from other goods, including commercially imported/exported digital devices.
- Requiring specific purpose that formally limits examinations to regulatory border-related examinations.
“The Government of Canada recognizes that personal digital devices can contain sensitive personal information,” reads a federal statement. “We will ensure that the privacy of Canadians and those wishing to come here is always protected.”
The government said it is committed to “advancing this legislation expeditiously.”
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