Privacy Commissioner finds that Canadian government misused ‘war criminal’ label

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Media Release

5 December 2013

Privacy Commissioner finds that Canadian government misused ‘war criminal’ label

 

The Canadian Council for Refugees welcomed today the Privacy Commissioner’s finding that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) wrongly applied the label of ‘war criminal’ to a significant number of people.

“It is deeply unfair to label someone a war criminal without any proper basis, but this is what happened when CBSA put out its ‘most wanted’ list,” said Loly Rico, President. “Many of those on the list were not accused of any crime, let alone convicted. And according to a recent decision of the Supreme Court, some of those on the list potentially should never have even been facing deportation from Canada. They should have been recognized as refugees instead.”

In a recently disclosed Report of Findings, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada responded to a complaint made by the CCR about the ‘Wanted by the CBSA’ program (originally called ‘most wanted’). The Privacy Commissioner found the CCR’s complaint well-founded in regard to the use of the label ‘war crimes’, determining it “potentially misleading and not adequately justified by the CBSA.”

While finding that, overall, the program is consistent with the Privacy Act, the Commissioner was nonetheless “deeply concerned by the CBSA’s failure to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment” of the program, “particularly given the potentially severe consequences for the individuals listed in the Program”. The Commissioner further found that the program released more private information than necessary.

Among the individuals on the list were several who were excluded from refugee protection by the Immigration and Refugee Board because they had been deemed to have been implicated in war crimes. These decisions were made before the Supreme Court ruled, in July 2013,  that Canada had been interpreting the war crimes exclusion provisions of the Refugee Convention far too broadly, resulting in innocent people being denied protection and wrongly labelled ‘war criminals’. See CCR release on the Ezokola decision http://ccrweb.ca/en/bulletin/13/07/19

In September 2011 the CCR joined several other organizations in raising concerns over various aspects of the ‘Wanted by the CBSA’ program: http://ccrweb.ca/en/statement-publication-most-wanted-list

Contact:

Colleen French, Communication Coordinator, Canadian Council for Refugees, 514-277-7223, ext. 1, 514-476-3971 (cell), cfrench@ccrweb.ca

Read the Privacy Commissioner's complete Report of Findings