RCMP investigators and Canadian spies would legally be able to access personal information found in Indian status records held by the federal Aboriginal Affairs department if the Harper government’s proposed anti-terror bill becomes law, according to Public Safety Canada.
A spokesperson for the federal Public Safety department confirmed Bill C-51’s changes to allow freer information sharing between federal departments and agencies on broadly defined national security grounds would include the personal information contained in the Indian status registry held by Aboriginal Affairs.
Public Safety spokesperson Josee Sirois said in an emailed statement to APTN that information would be shared only if “it relates to an activity that undermines the security of Canada, such as terrorism, espionage, or weapons proliferation.”
The actual wording in the information sharing section of Bill C-51, however, provides a broader criteria allowing for the sharing of information. This particular section of the bill deals with the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and encompasses any activity that “undermines the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada” along with the interference of border operations “or the economic or financial stability of Canada” and “interference with critical infrastructure.”
The definition of what constitutes a national security threat in this section of Bill C-51 “is new and far more expansive than previously known in Canada,” said human rights lawyer Paul Champ.
The Assembly of First Nations has expressed concerns this expansive definition would encompass First Nation protest and dissent activities associated with the defence and assertion of Aboriginal and treaty rights. Cree NDP MP Romeo Saganash has said Bill C-51poses a direct threat to Aboriginal rights for this same reason.
There is an extensive record of the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Canadian military monitoring First Nation events and individuals. APTN has already revealed the RCMP keeps an active file on former Idle No More organizer Clayton Thomas Muller, thatCSIS tracked the travel of Mohawk Clifton Nicholas and that the military’s counter-intelligence arm monitored Mi’kmaq anti-fracking protests near Elsipogtog in New Brunswick.
APTN also reported Wednesday that Aboriginal Affairs shared information with CSIS to bolster surveillance of Idle No More protests.
Bill C-51 empowers 17 federal departments and agencies, including the RCMP, CSIS and Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), to obtain the personal information of Canadians held by any other federal department, including Aboriginal Affairs, on broadly defined national security grounds.
Aboriginal Affairs holds detailed personal information of everyone who is registered as a status Indian.
The Indian status record of an individual includes information on the names of any of their children, registration number and status, the names of any siblings, registration numbers and status and the names of their parents, registration numbers and status. The file also includes a family tree extending to their maternal and paternal grandparents.
The record also includes the name of their band, date of birth and when they activated their status. It includes information on whether they live on or off-reserve, marital status, marriage date, registration number of spouse, whether they are on a band list and category of status. Registration numbers include an individual’s order of birth.
Aboriginal Affairs has already been caught sifting through the Indian status record of child advocate Cindy Blackstock who took Ottawa to the human rights tribunal over its alleged underfunding of child and family services on reserve.
The federal department twice accessed Blackstock’s status record for reasons other than to update the file.
The Privacy Commissioner’s Office investigation in the accessing of Blackstock’s Indian status records hit a dead end because Aboriginal Affairs did not keep a log of officials who accessed the database.
Blackstock said Bill C-51 would allow the federal government to put a whole family under surveillance in one swoop.
“If you have a baby, that record is there and if that status file was accessed for the purposes of Bill C-51 then the baby’s personal information is now the subject of surveillance by the government of Canada,” said Blackstock. “They will have his or her gender, their full name, their date of birth and registry number.”
While Aboriginal Affairs and Justice Canada officials monitored Blackstock’s online and real-life activities, she said it was the accessing of her status record that really bothered her.
“That probably disturbed me more than anything else,” she said. “It is one thing for me as a human rights activist to be subject to this, it’s another thing when they are collecting information on your family or extended family.”
The Privacy Commissioner’s Office also confirmed that Health Canada’s information obtained through the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) for First Nation and Inuit could also be shared under Bill C-51. NIHB information would include details on prescription drug use along with dental and eye care issues.
“The 17 federal departments in question would be in a position to receive information about any or all Canadian’s interactions with government,” said a statement from Privacy Commissioner’s Office. “That would include the personal information…relating to status Indians and Inuit people.”
Health Canada said it could not provide a detailed list of the information it collects through the NIHB until Monday.
Blackstock said it appears the federal government may hold more information on those registered as a status Indians than other Canadians.
“I am filing my taxes, like a lot of us have, and I’ve applied for a passport. In neither of those situations have I been required to identify the name of my grandparents,” said Blackstock.
The Privacy Commissioner’s Office said it couldn’t say whether status Indians would be disproportionality affected under the proposed bill.
“While the federal government clearly holds a great deal of personal information related to Aboriginal people, we cannot comment on whether they could be disproportionately affected by the legislation,” it said in a statement.