The Harper government has taken steps to outsource and privatize document storage at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The unnecessary move has left hundreds of workers out of a job while endangering the privacy of everyone in Canada – especially if the contract is awarded to a U.S. company.
This latest step should be of extreme concern to all Canadians. Trade agreements like NAFTA, CETA, FIPA, etc. and the WTO have left Canada powerless to insist that public contracts at Revenue Canada and other agencies go to Canadian firms that must abide by Canada’s relatively strong privacy laws. I’m not sure it’s in anyone’s interest to have a U.S. firm subject to the Patriot Act handling our personal information, for example.
Similar concerns were raised when the government contracted U.S. weapons giant Lockheed Martin to process mailed-in census forms, and also when another American company, Maximus, took over the management of the B.C. Medical Services Plan. Overwhelmingly informed Canadians rejected the idea of Lockheed Martin handling Canadian census information. As a sign of protest, many simply refused to fill out census forms… the governments reaction was to childishly change the census from mandatory to voluntary which accomplishes nothing except to severely hamper their ability to accurately project the level of services required.
The government, itself, recognizes the risks in outsourcing sensitive data management tasks to private firms. Back in 2006 the Treasury Board of Canada fact sheet on the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act stated emphatically:
Under the Act, U.S. officials could access information about citizens of other countries, including Canada, if that information is physically within the United States or accessible electronically. The potential exists, therefore, for law enforcement agencies to obtain information about Canadians whose information might be handled under a contract between the federal government and a U.S.-based company.
(Source:FAQ: USA PATRIOT ACT Comprehensive Assessment Results)
The same government document says that, “When highly sensitive information is involved, a priority is placed on keeping such information in direct control of the government or within Canadian borders.”
PLEASE TAKE ACTION
Write to Revenue Minister Gail Shea demanding that she reverse the layoffs at Revenue Canada and stop the privatization of tax records. Tell the Minister it’s her responsibility to do a privacy impact assessment before transferring this important task to private hands, especially if a U.S. company could pick up the contract.
In addition to the Revenue Minister Shea, I would suggest you also make your displeasure known to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, local Senators as well as the Revenue and Treasury Board Critics of the other parties requesting them to hold the current government accountable.
Revenue Canada Minister Gail Shea: firstname.lastname@example.org
NDP Revenue Critic Hoang Mai: email@example.com
Liberal Revenue Critic Scott Brison: firstname.lastname@example.org
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: Elizabeth.May@parl.gc.ca
Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada: email@example.com
Treasury Board Minister Tony Clement: firstname.lastname@example.org
NDP Treasury Board Critic Mathieu Ravignat: email@example.com
Liberal Treasury Board Critic John McCallum: John.McCallum@parl.gc.ca