The Ottawa Statement

Below, please find the final draft of the Ottawa Statement, discussed at the ‘Politics of Surveillance Workshop’. We hope you and your organizations will review the statement and consider signing. We also encourage you to pass this statement around to any other interested individuals or organizations that might want to sign.

We hope to publicize the statement as soon as possible, so please let us know by Wednesday, May 14th whether you intend to sign.

You can contact <jonathan.obar(at)> and/or David Murakami Wood <dmw(at)> with your decision or for further information.

Ottawa Statement on Mass Surveillance in Canada

We are entering an age of big data and ubiquitous surveillance. We know:

  1. That governments and private corporations routinely collect and sort massive amounts of personal data for multiple reasons from national security to marketing;
  2. That there is extensive targeting and profiling of individuals and groups on grounds of race and ethnicity, political and religious views, social class, age, gender, sexual preference and disability;
  3. That Canadian privacy and data protection laws and regulations are regularly bypassed, undermined or broken, and are inadequate for dealing with information and privacy rights in the age of big data and ubiquitous surveillance.

We the undersigned, gathered in Ottawa to discuss surveillance and privacy in Canada, agree:

1.   That all levels of government in Canada must fully respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms including the right to privacy, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, and security against unreasonable search and seizure.

2.     That all proposals for change to information and privacy rights and freedoms must be presented, justified and debated in a transparent manner. No changes to information and privacy rights and statutory privacy law should ever be embedded in omnibus bills or otherwise hidden in legislation relating to other issues.

3.      That the extension of ‘lawful access’ regimes allowing government bodies to collect and/or purchase and store personal data without specific permission and oversight, should be halted. All such proposed changes must be subjected to tests of necessity, proportionality, minimality and effectiveness, with the burden of proof being on the government to demonstrate these. In addition, security vulnerabilities in communications systems must be addressed and fixed rather than exploited by government agencies.

4.      That the powers of provincial and federal Privacy Commissioners should be commensurate with the quasi-constitutional status of privacy law. Commissioners should have extended powers and appropriate financing and staffing, to initiate investigations, as well as react to complaints, and prosecute and fine state bodies and private companies for breaches of that law.

5.      That all state security, intelligence, policing and border agencies must be brought fully under proper legal regulation, judicial authorization, transparency and democratic accountability. While it is necessary for the government to have some secrets and conduct some secret activities, this does not mean that these should be governed by secret law or exceptions from law.  In particular:

  • That government agencies must fully disclose the legal definitions of the terms employed for surveillance, the kind of data they gather and the full justifications for surveillance and data gathering.
  • That the government must publically acknowledge all secret international security treaties, agreements and memoranda that require the sharing of personal data, affect free movement and personal security, or place Canadian state surveillance in the service of other sovereign states, international agencies or the private sector.
  • That the government must implement the recommendations of the O’Connor Inquiry into the case of Maher Arar[1] including the introduction of integrated oversight and review mechanisms.

6.     That negotiations for all new international treaties, agreements and memoranda, including international trade agreements, which may impact on information and privacy rights, must be transparent, consistent with the Charter and privacy law, subject to parliamentary and public scrutiny, and if necessary referred to the Supreme Court.

7.     That a full, transparent and participatory public process must begin to create a comprehensive legal framework for information and privacy rights and freedoms, built on the Charter and acknowledging the United Nations’ reaffirmation of privacy as a fundamental human right.[2]


[1] Report of the Events Relating to Maher Arar, 2006.

[2] UN General Assembly Resolution, Right to Privacy in the Digital Age, 2013

One Response to The Ottawa Statement

  1. Hi,

    I would be pleased to associate my name with this statement.

    I blog on the subject of Canadian SIGINT activities at the website


    Bill Robinson.

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