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Canada’s privacy bill inadequate to fix entrenched issues

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Canada‘s existing privacy laws leave consumers and businesses exposed to misuses of data, mainly due to outdated rules and lack of enforcement ability for regulators, privacy commissioners and experts say, and a proposed new bill does not necessarily solve these issues.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government introduced Bill C-11 in November 2020, intended to modernize the oversight of data protection, but critics say it falls short of this goal. The bill has several hoops to pass through before it becomes law.

Canada‘s data privacy laws saw a significant update roughly 20 years ago.

Changing technology – such as facial recognition and increased use of artificial intelligence – combined with a lack of enforcement power have “absolutely” left Canadians unprotected from data leaks and misuse, according to Jill Clayton, Alberta’s privacy commissioner.

The dearth of action means that Canada is “seriously starting to fall behind” jurisdictions like Europe, which implemented a landmark set of privacy laws in 2018, Clayton said.

In the United Kingdom, for instance, regulators have more enforcement powers, such as carrying out FBI-style raids, while Canadian regulators are often unable to deliver more than a slap on the wrist.

The lack of enforcement power was highlighted earlier this year, when Daniel Therrien, current federal privacy commissioner, issued a joint report with provincial counterparts into U.S. facial recognition Clearview AI’s actions in Canada.

The commissioners condemned the company’s practice of using Canadians’ photos posted to social media to build a database, but could not force the company to return or delete the data.

Similarly, when sensitive information of 15 million Canadians was leaked at LifeLabs, Canada‘s largest provider of specialty medical laboratory testing, commissioners said they were limited in their ability to hand out appropriate punishment.

One outcome of Canada‘s outdated privacy law is that industries that handle a lot of data, such as banks, have had to evolve ahead of the legislation due to the increasing gap between modern technologies and existing laws, said Robert Colangelo, senior vice president of the global financial institutions group at DBRS Morningstar.

To strengthen Bill C-11, Therrien’s office submitted 60 recommendations to the government, including a shift in focus towards privacy rights of individuals and away from prioritizing commercial interests.

A spokesman for Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the bill provides a clear framework of rules that allow “Canadian businesses to innovate while protecting Canadians’ privacy,” and its passage is “a top priority.”

The bill also proposes companies that fail to protect the personal information of Canadians could be fined up to 5% of global revenue. Therrien said in a recent statement said that the penalty is “unjustifiably narrow and protracted.”

David Fraser, a lawyer at McInnes Cooper who advises Fortune-100 companies on technology and privacy laws, acknowledges that Bill C-11 is a compromise, but is concerned the bill would make the privacy commissioner “judge, jury and executioner.”

“There’s something in there to disappoint everybody,” Fraser said.

 

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Torontol Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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Trudeau says he discussed border with Biden, but no deal

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday he has spoken with U.S. President Joe Biden about how to lift pandemic-related border restrictions between the two countries but made clear no breakthrough has been achieved.

U.S. and Canadian business leaders have voiced increasing concern about the ban on non-essential travel in light of COVID-19 that was first imposed in March 2020 and renewed on a monthly basis since then. The border measures do not affect trade flows.

The border restrictions have choked off tourism between the two countries. Canadian businesses, especially airlines and those that depend on tourism, have been lobbying the Liberal government to relax the restrictions.

Canada last week took a cautious first step, saying it was prepared to relax quarantine protocols for fully vaccinated citizens returning home starting in early July.

Trudeau, speaking after a Group of Seven summit in Britain, said he had talked to Biden “about coordinating measures at our borders as both our countries move ahead with mass vaccination.” Canada is resisting calls for the border measures to be relaxed, citing the need for more people to be vaccinated.

The United States is ahead of Canada in terms of vaccination totals.

“We will continue to work closely together on moving forward in the right way but each of us always will put at the forefront the interests and the safety of our own citizens,” Trudeau told a televised news conference when asked the Biden conversation.

“Many countries, like Canada, continue to say that now is not the time to travel,” Trudeau added, though he said it is important to get back to normalcy as quickly as possible.

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Man with 39 wive dies in India

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A 76-year-old man who had 39 wives and 94 children and was said to be the head of the world’s largest family has died in north east India, the chief minister of his home state said.

Ziona Chana, the head of a local Christian sect that allows polygamy, died on Sunday, Zoramthanga, the chief minister of Mizoram and who goes by one name, said in a tweet.

With a total of 167 members, the family is the world’s largest, according to local media, although this depends on whether you count the grandchildren, of whom Ziona has 33.

Winston Blackmore, the head of a polygamous Mormon sect in Canada, has around 150 children from 27 wives – 178 people in total.

Ziona lived with his family in a vast, four-story pink structure with around 100 rooms in Baktawng, a remote village in Mizoram that became a tourist attraction as a result, according to Zoramthanga.

The sect, named “Chana”, was founded by Ziona’s father in 1942 and has a membership of hundreds of families. Ziona married his first wife when he was 17, and claimed he once married ten wives in a single year.

They shared a dormitory near his private bedroom, and locals said he liked to have seven or eight of them by his side at all times.

Despite his family’s huge size, Ziona told Reuters in a 2011 interview he wanted to grow it even further.

“I am ready to expand my family and willing to go to any extent to marry,” he said.

“I have so many people to care for and look after, and I consider myself a lucky man.”

 

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal and Adnan Abidi in New Delhi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Huawei CFO seeks publication ban on HSBC documents in U.S. extradition case

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Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on Monday will seek to bar publication of documents her legal team received from HSBC, a request opposed by Canadian prosecutors in her U.S. extradition case who say it violates the principles of open court.

Meng’s legal team will present arguments in support of the ban in the British Columbia Supreme Court.

Meng, 49, was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 on a warrant from the United States, where she faces charges of bank fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business dealings in Iran and potentially causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions on business in Iran.

She has been under house arrest in Vancouver for more than two years and fighting her extradition to the United States. Meng has said she is innocent.

Lawyers for Huawei and HSBC in Hong Kong agreed to a release of the documents in April to Meng’s legal team on the condition that they “use reasonable effort” to keep confidential information concealed from the public, according to submissions filed by the defense on Friday.

Prosecutors representing the Canadian government argued against the ban, saying in submissions filed the same day that “to be consistent with the open court principle, a ban must be tailored” and details should be selectively redacted from the public, rather than the whole documents.

A consortium of media outlets, including Reuters News, also opposes the ban.

The open court principle requires that court proceedings be open and accessible to the public and to the media.

It is unclear what documents Huawei obtained from HSBC, but defense lawyers argue they are relevant to Meng’s case.

Meng’s hearing was initially set to wrap up in May but Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes granted an extension to allow the defense to read through the new documents.

Hearings in the extradition case are scheduled to finish in late August.

 

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Howard Goller)

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