New Justice Centre Report on dangers of digital ID in Canada

CALGARY: The Justice Centre today released a new Report on the real and growing threat of digital ID technologies in Canada. This report, entitled Canada’s Road to Beijing, outlines the Chinese Communist Party’s use of Digital ID technologies to suppress freedom in China, cautions Canadians about the immediate and increasing threat of government use of these technologies, and shows how they could impact Charter-protected rights and freedoms.

Digital ID and digital currency technologies are hardly novel, having been extensively developed and implemented in the People’s Republic of China under the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) since 2009. There, these technologies have armed the CPC to ‘blacklist’ and segregate Chinese (and even Canadian) citizens for criminal behavior, for disseminating controversial beliefs, for holding religious gatherings, for having too many children, and even for purchasing too many video games.

This report draws attention to the parallels between the uses of digital ID technologies in China and Canada. We conclude that the parallels are uncomfortably close. While it is true that these digital technologies promise greater efficiency and accessibility, we caution that they pose a significant (but overlooked) threat to Charter rights and freedoms. These technologies equip our governments to track the financial and physical behaviors of Canadians, and, in certain alarming cases, to penalize Canadians for exercising their Charter-protected rights and freedoms. Digital ID allow governments to know where you go, what you buy, and how you spend your money.

It recently came to light that, in 2020, the Government of Canada secretly authorized the surveillance of 33 million Canadian-based smartphones in order to determine whether their users had been complying with Covid mobility restrictions. In 2021, Canadian governments required citizens to present digital proof of vaccination in order to participate in many spheres of public and private life. (For example, Albertans needed a QR code just to go to a restaurant or movie theatre.) In 2022, the Federal Government tracked and froze the bank accounts of more than 200 Freedom Convoy supporters and associates, with no opportunity for appeal or objection. Such interventions have been made possible by the quiet proliferation of digital tracking technologies across Canada in the last decade.

These technologies are already being used, to varying degrees, in B.C., Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec. The Atlantic provinces and Saskatchewan are now testing and developing these technologies for future implementation, and governments seem to want more. Right now, there are talks of developing a national digital ID, which would be required to access the more than 270 online Government of Canada services and programs. The Government of Canada website describes this technology as “One ID to rule them all.

“It’s kind of like being invited to a really exciting party. Just make sure to bring some (digital) ID,” states the website.

“What Canadians need today is not more unmitigated government access to private information but, instead, a renewed commitment to Charter rights and freedoms. We are on the road to Beijing, and Canadians should be apprehensive,” says lawyer John Carpay, President of the Justice Centre.

“Things are moving fast, and Canadians should be very concerned that a free and democratic society is quickly headed towards a society where citizens can be cancelled by the government with the flick of a switch,” warns Mr. Carpay.

Ukraine Nazi State Leader Zelensky calls for travel ban on Russians entering Western nations

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is urging Western governments to bar Russians from entering their countries — declaring that they ought to “live in their own world until they change their philosophy.”

The leader of the besieged country made the request in an interview on Monday with the Washington Post as the Pentagon announced another $1 billion aid package to Ukraine.

Zelensky told the newspaper that “the most important sanctions are to close the borders — because the Russians are taking away someone else’s land.”

But the Washington Post noted that some have said that such a ban would unduly apply to Russians who have fled their country specifically because they oppose President Vladimir Putin’s February invasion of Ukraine.

Zelensky, however, insisted that countries should not make a distinction for Putin critics.

“Whichever kind of Russian … make them go to Russia,” he told the paper.

“They’ll understand then,” the president said in the interview. “They’ll say, ‘This [war] has nothing to do with us. The whole population can’t be held responsible, can it?’ It can. The population picked this government and they’re not fighting it, not arguing with it, not shouting at it.”

“Don’t you want this isolation?” Zelensky went on. “You’re telling the whole world that it must live by your rules. Then go and live there. This is the only way to influence Putin.”

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin reportedly expressed support for restricting tourist visas for Russians.

But the Kremlin on Tuesday fired back at Zelensky’s proposed travel ban.

“The irrationality of his thinking in this case is off the scale,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.

“This can only be seen extremely negatively. Any attempt to isolate Russia or Russians is a process that has no prospects.”

Trudeau government to introduce national “Digital Identity Program”

A report published last week on revamping the Government of Canada’s digital infrastructure states that the next step to making services more convenient is to introduce a federal “Digital Identity Program.” 

Details of the program were scarce in the publication titled Canada’s Digital Ambition 2022 which was signed off by President of the Treasury Board Mona Fortier and the Chief Information Officer of Canada, Catherine Luelo. 

Citing the pandemic, the report outlines how a federal framework would also be integrated with provincial digital identities. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for government services to be accessible and flexible in the digital age. The next step in making services more convenient to access is a federal Digital Identity Program, integrated with pre-existing provincial platforms,” the report explained. 

“Digital identity is the electronic equivalent of a recognized proof-of-identity document (for example, a driver’s license or passport) and confirms that ‘you are who you say you are’ in a digital context.” 

Steps currently underway to implement the program include “developing a common and secure framework to digital identity” and “launching public consultations on a federally managed digital identity framework.” 

When first appointed to the position by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Fortier’s mandate letter for the Treasury Board included a specific directive to work “towards a common and secure approach for a trusted digital identity platform to support seamless service delivery to Canadians across the country.” 

As exclusively reported by True North in May, the Trudeau government revealed that it was working with airlines to require “digital identity documents” and biometric data like facial recognition as boarding requirements. 

Currently, the Liberals are facing calls from the opposition to ditch the ArriveCan application citing airport backlogs and privacy concerns. 

Canada’s privacy commissioner Philippe Dufresne was prompted to launch an investigation into the app to see whether it violated any laws or improperly collected the personal information of Canadians.