07:49 GMT +322 October 2019
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    Rights watchdog groups are sounding the alarm over a secret agreement between Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the country’s consular and diplomatic arm, and Ottawa’s spy agency, which allows for intelligence gathering from nationals jailed abroad, all in the name of Canadian security.

    GAC is encouraged to hand over the data it obtains to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), in the event that it is significant to the security of the country, according to a secret memo released Monday.

    The memo, sent from CSIS chief Michel Coulombe, to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, has been made public through an Access to Information Act, an analog of the Freedom of Information Act used in the US.

    “Information collected by [GAC] through the provision of consular services can be directly relevant to investigations of threats to the security of Canada,” the document reads.

    According to the paper, the two agencies created the information-sharing deal earlier this year under the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, a provision of Ottawa’s anti-terrorism legislation, known as the C-51 Act.

    The controversial legislation has been under fire by activists and watchdogs for prohibiting citizens from protesting without official authorization.

    In an annual report, Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Daniel Therrien, pointed out that the obscurely worded Information Sharing Act does not make clear how “national security” is defined, allowing for a wide interpretation in how authorities can prosecute “law-abiding Canadians,” he added.

    The C-51 Act’s new data sharing arrangement has drawn criticism from rights groups and the administration's political opposition as well.

    Alex Neve, the head of Amnesty International Canada, said that the arrangement is a threat to personal privacy, as it rests on the assumption that consular workers “can and will share [data received from Canadian detainees abroad] with CSIS when relevant to national security.”

    Both GAC and CSIS have declined to comment on what kind of information they are collecting and sharing, stating only that they are acting in accordance with Canadian law.

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    Tags:
    terror, bill, prisoner, spy, intelligence, Global Affairs Canada, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada
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