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'Invasion of privacy': Watchdogs concerned about apps tracking COVID-19 patients – News Talk 650 CKOM

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By Nick Wells, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — Privacy watchdogs are voicing concerns over proposals across the country to implement smartphone apps to help track COVID-19.

New Brunswick, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan are among the provinces looking at or planning on creating smartphone apps that would track a user’s whereabouts.

Alberta is the first province to launch an app.

Known as contact tracing, the apps track those who the user comes in to contact with, commonly by monitoring a device’s Bluetooth signal.

The use of the technology, and the information the apps gather, has become a subject of debate in Canada.

“When we develop these sorts of tools or applications, we’re entering into a totally new class or form of surveillance,” said Christopher Parsons, a senior research associate at Citizen Lab, part of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Policy. “We’ve never had that level of surveillance in this country.”

Parsons, whose research focuses on data privacy and security, said governments may have good intentions but they need to be prepared for the long-term implications of collecting such data.

“If the government doesn’t communicate what government organizations can or can’t collect with any kind of tracing application, it will almost certainly disenfranchise individuals,” he said.

The reaction at various government levels to creating and implementing the apps has been mixed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government has received a number of proposals but understands that Canadians value their privacy and need certain assurances.

Alberta launched its app, called ABTraceTogether, on Friday. It uses Bluetooth signals to track users and if you’re diagnosed with COVID-19, it will contact those you may have come into contact with.

The province said no identifiable information is exchanged between the app users and geolocation data will not be collected.

A spokesman for New Brunswick’s Ministry of Health said its app would allow those diagnosed with COVID-19 to send an anonymous message to those they have come in contact with.

Other provinces are taking a wait-and-see approach.

British Columbia is not looking at contact tracing apps at this time, while a spokesperson for Ontario’s Health Ministry said no decision has been made.

Only Quebec has strongly pushed back against using contact tracing technology and apps.

“Geolocation cannot replace the contact tracing actions carried out by the public-health departments. In addition, it must not at any time make it possible to identify an individual, in particular, a person suffering from COVID-19,” the Quebec Health Ministry said in a statement.

The discussion prompted Canada’s privacy commissioner to release a framework for governments. It says collected data should be destroyed when the pandemic ends and that measures must be science-based and “necessary to achieve a specific identified purpose.”

“During a crisis, laws can be applied flexibly and contextually, but they must still apply. Our framework aims to focus on what we believe are the most relevant principles in context, without abandoning others,” said commissioner Daniel Therrien.

Dr. Peter Phillips, an infectious disease expert at the University of British Columbia, said privacy rights aren’t the only issue and Canadians need to make sacrifices based on the benefit for public health.

“Rather than just assuming this is an unacceptable intrusion on people’s privacy, there are potentially substantial benefits to be had by having public health response use technology,” he said in an interview.

Phillips agreed that privacy issues must be handled carefully.

“The rights of those people who are not yet infected with COVID need to be taken into account as well, because if we don’t do everything that we can to contain this by way of public health, then people are going to get sick and some of them will die.”

Other countries using such apps are promising to keep a close eye on how the data is used and shared.

Australia launched COVIDSafe and has promised to take only minimal data from its users. Italy has decreed that the information its app collects will remain anonymous and be destroyed by the end of the year.

The rise in popularity of the apps even prompted a joint effort from Google and Apple to allow programming interfaces to work together to share data. Those with Android or Apple smartphone products will both be able to better share data to allow developers to create tracing apps.

The plan, the companies said, is to launch Bluetooth tracing software in the coming months.

In Canada, there are concerns about oversight and guidelines on how the information will be shared.

“It really is an extraordinary invasion of privacy for a democratic state to request,” said Brenda McPhail, the director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s privacy, technology and surveillance project.

She said there would need to be an equally extraordinary level of oversight.

Geoffrey Rotstein, CEO of Toronto company EQ Works, said he’s aware of the concerns.

His company is developing an app that would track a smartphone’s Bluetooth technology but would keep a user’s data stored on their phone, not a server.

“We believe we could develop something that becomes a very proactive notification tool,” he said. “So, we can proactively identify people in places at risk and help protect people’s lives and help get life back to normal faster.”

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said this week that in addition to privacy concerns, the technology itself remains unproven and will need to be refined to ensure false positives and other issues do not emerge.

— With files from Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa and Brenna Owen in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 2, 2020

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Family says 'back and forth' between NS, Ottawa over shooting probe 'unreal' – Lethbridge Herald

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By Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press on June 1, 2020.

Heather O’Brien is shown in a handout photo from the GoFundMe page “Support for the O’Brien Family.” Heather O’Brien was among the victims of the mass killings in Nova Scotia. A Nova Scotia family is making a passionate appeal for the federal and Nova Scotia governments to end the “back and forth” over who leads a public inquiry into the province’s mass shooting. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-GoFundMe MANDATORY CREDIT

HALIFAX – A Nova Scotia family has made a passionate appeal for the federal and Nova Scotia governments to end the “back and forth” over which should lead a public inquiry into a recent mass shooting.

Darcy Dobson, the daughter of a licensed practical nurse who was among the 22 victims, writes in an open letter that she, her father Andrew and her five siblings “formally request the start of a public inquiry into the mass shooting on April 18 and 19.”

The letter notes that with few answers provided more than 40 days after the tragedy, families aren’t able to heal properly, and adds “the amount of information being kept from us is deplorable.”

Premier Stephen McNeil has said he wants Ottawa to lead a public inquiry because the areas of key jurisdiction – such as the protocols followed by the RCMP – are federal.

However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hasn’t committed his government to overseeing an inquiry, saying only it will “work with the government of Nova Scotia” to get answers.

Dobson’s mother, Heather O’Brien of Truro, N.S., was killed by the gunman on April 19 as she drove along a highway in Debert, N.S.

The letter from the 30-year-old daughter is signed by the entire O’Brien family and says, “the back and forth about who’s responsible for an inquiry is unreal.”

It says mistakes were made at both the provincial and federal levels, adding, “We need answers to heal, we need answers so we can find a way to live in this new normal that we’ve been forced into.”

The letter adds that authorities should be trying to learn from one of the worst mass killings in Canadian history.

“What’s the hold up in the inquiry? Why hasn’t this happened yet? Where are we in the investigation? Was someone else involved? Why can’t we get any answers at all 40 days in?!” it asks.

“The fact that any one of us has to ask these questions is all very concerning and only makes everyone feel inadequate, unimportant and unsafe.

“Please for the people of our province, for the people of our country, for the people who have lost someone so dear to their hearts, find a way to let us start to heal.”

Dobson writes in her letter that her mother had taught her children to push strongly for what they believe in.

“This is why we are standing up. We are requesting you give us the information we all deserve.”

She also says other families may soon be joining hers in publishing requests for an inquiry to be called.

In recent weeks questions have been raised about why the RCMP didn’t issue a search warrant for the gunman’s home in Portapique, after reports of domestic abuse of his spouse and possession of illegal firearms seven years ago.

Last month, Brenda Forbes, a former neighbour of Gabriel Wortman – who was shot and killed by police on April 19 – said she reported an account of a 2013 incident of domestic violence by Wortman against his common-law spouse to the RCMP in Truro.

She said she reported witnesses telling her that Wortman had strangled and beaten his common-law partner, and she said she told police there were guns in the house.

Police have said Wortman’s rampage began late on the night of April 18 with the domestic assault of the same woman, who managed to escape and hide in the woods after the gunman assaulted her at their residence in Portapique.

The RCMP said in an email Friday it is still looking for the police record of the 2013 incident and declined further comment.

Last week saw more revelations the Mounties had received detailed warnings about Wortman.

A newly released police bulletin revealed that in May 2011, a Truro police officer had received information from a source indicating Wortman was upset about a police investigation into a break-and-enter and had “stated he wants to kill a cop.”

The officer goes on to say he was told Wortman owned a handgun and was having some “mental issues” that left him feeling stressed and “a little squirrelly.”

Thirty-three Dalhousie law professors have called for an inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act – which allows for broad terms of reference – arguing the province is responsible for the administration of justice.

Other legal experts have said another option is for a joint federal-provincial inquiry, as there are overlapping issues of provincial and federal jurisdiction.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2020.

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Calls intensify for public inquiry into Nova Scotia mass murders – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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TRURO, N.S. — The daughter of one of Nova Scotia’s mass shooting victims is calling for an immediate start to a public inquiry into the April tragedy.

Darcy Dobson, daughter of victim Heather O’Brien, posted a message on Facebook to “formally request” the start of a public inquiry into shootings on April 18 and 19 in northern Nova Scotia that left 22 people dead.

“We are now 40 days past this tragic event, we aren’t able to heal properly because, and to be quite frank, the amount of information being kept from us is deplorable,” Dobson said. “I urge you to put yourselves in our shoes. The woman who was the center of our world was taken from us in a manner that no one could ever even imagine.”

Dobson’s plea echoes earlier calls for an inquiry, including one last month from 33 of Dalhousie University’s approximately 40 faculty members of its Schulich School of Law. A group of seven Nova Scotia women fighting femicide have also called for a public inquiry “with a feminist analysis.”

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has previously said such a review should be led by the federal government, with support and assistance coming from the province.
Cumberland-Colchester MP Lenore Zann is also calling on Ottawa to begin a public inquiry into the event.



“I am officially requesting an independent public inquiry into the recent mass shootings that took place here in our usually peaceful community of Northern Nova Scotia,” she wrote in a letter to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair. “There are issues of concern about the murderer’s behaviour long before, leading up to, and during the horrendous events of April 18 and 19, when in a period of 13 hours, 22 innocent people in several small rural communities were viciously murdered.

“Many of my constituents want answers.”

That position was supported by Dobson in her Facebook post. 

“We understand that there is an active investigation,” the Debert resident said. “We also know we have rights to information, especially regarding our individual circumstances. I think we can all agree that public safety is of the utmost importance and feeling safe in our communities is a must. The back and forth about who’s responsible for an inquiry is unreal. It causes the families of this senseless crime more distress and again I’m sure we can all agree that is not okay.”

The mass murders by a Halifax denturist who was ultimate fatally shot by police have been described as the worst massacre in Canadian history. 
If that is so, Dobson said, “… why are we not trying to learn from it? 

“The fact that any one of us has to ask these questions is all very concerning and only makes everyone feel, inadequate, unimportant and unsafe.”

Zann said she spoke personally with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week to request his support for an independent public inquiry. She said he “appeared supportive of the idea and open to working out something with the province…” which leases RCMP services from the federal government.

“The PM seemed to clearly understand the grief, pain and fear that this horrendous violence has brought upon Nova Scotians and the growing frustration due to the lack of information,” Zann said.

“Thirty years after the Polytechnique massacre in Montreal which, shockingly, did not ever receive a public inquiry, surely this time it is our duty to do the right thing and hold a substantive independent inquiry into this recent tragedy,” she said.

Zann said she does not think a public inquiry should be held before the RCMP completes its investigation of the tragedy, but stressed the public should know that one will be forthcoming.
 

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Nova Scotia court ruling orders province to better protect endangered species – CTV News

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HALIFAX —
The Nova Scotia government has failed to meet “certain statutory duties” to protect species at risk says a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge, who also ordered the province’s minister of lands and forestry to fulfil his obligations under the Endangered Species Act.

In a ruling issued Friday, Justice Christa Brothers says the public record has shown a “chronic and systemic failure” to implement action required under the act.

“The minister and the department must uphold the law, all the more so when their duties are as plain as they are in this case,” Brothers wrote. “If they conduct themselves unlawfully without good reason, the court must hold them to account.”

The judge quoted from the 1971 Dr. Seuss book “The Lorax” in the preamble to her 58-page ruling: “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Brothers also cited a 2016 report by the provincial auditor general that criticized department inaction, a followup report by the department on the auditor’s recommendations in 2018, and the 2018 Lahey Report on forestry practices to back her conclusion.

The ruling is the result of a judicial review application by the Federation of Nova Scotia Naturalists, the Blomidon Naturalists Society, the Halifax Field Naturalists and wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft that was heard last fall.

The groups argued that Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin has failed to meet requirements under the act, including requirements to devise and implement recovery plans for species at risk, create recovery teams and identify core habitats.

They cited six animal and plant species as examples — the mainland moose, Canada warbler, eastern wood pewee, wood turtle, ram’s head lady’s slipper and black ash.

“Nature won,” Bancroft said of the court ruling in an interview Monday. “The question is whether they (politicians) will actually do anything or not.”

Bancroft said he believes nature has been compromised over the years on many fronts because of an “industrial agenda” within the department, particularly when it comes to forestry practices.

“At least we got to the bottom of the species at risk issue effectively in law, so I’m grateful to the lawyers and Judge Brothers for that.”

Brothers noted that in the case of the Canada warbler, which was listed as endangered in 2013, the minister had one year to appoint a recovery team under the act.

But she said a team wasn’t appointed until March 2019, shortly after the naturalist groups filed for judicial review and “some five years after the time frame contemplated by the Endangered Species Act.”

Brothers said little action also occurred when it came to the ram’s head lady’s slipper, a plant listed as endangered in 2007.

“The minister neither appointed a recovery team nor prepared a plan in 2008,” she wrote. “According to the record, a draft recovery plan was created in 2009. There is nothing in either the record or submissions to explain why this plan was never finalized.”

Brothers said a plants recovery team was appointed in May 2019 that included the lady slipper and a recovery plan is pending.

“What of the 11 years that elapsed between the designation of the species and the appointment of the team?” the ruling asks.

The judge also said lawyers for the province had cited “several somewhat vague suggestions” of limited departmental resources as justification for the delay.

“There is no apparent support in the record for the claim that institutional restraints, such as lack of resources, are at fault for this failure to observe statutory requirements,” she said.

During two days of hearings last September the lawyer for the naturalist groups, James Simpson, argued that the language in the act, with its use of the word “shall”, creates an imperative for the department to enforce the existing law.

Brothers agreed in her ruling. “The minister has no discretion to avoid this duty,” she wrote.

In an email, Lands and Forestry Department spokeswoman Lisa Jarrett said there’s no word yet on a potential appeal of the ruling.

“The province has just received the ruling and is currently reviewing it to determine next steps,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2020.

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