Ottawa Statement on Mass Surveillance

Canada’s leading privacy experts unite behind Ottawa Statement, offer high-level proposals to rein in mass surveillance.



Over 35 leading academics and 19 organizations sign on in support of the Ottawa Statement on Mass Surveillance, which sets out what needs to be done to protect Canadians from out-of-control mass surveillance

May 22, 2014 – The government needs to start respecting the Charter and Canadians’ human and democratic rights when it comes to privacy. That’s according to a blue-ribbon group of Canada’s top privacy experts, supported by a wide range of civic society and public interest organizations. Today, the group is launching the Ottawa Statement on Mass Surveillance which sets out high-level recommendations aimed at putting a stop to blanket government spying on innocent Canadians.

Many of the signatories are members of the largest pro-privacy coalition in Canadian history -- the Protect Our Privacy coalition found at:

The Ottawa Statement points out that “Canadian privacy and data protection laws and rules are regularly bypassed, undermined or broken” and that current laws are “inadequate in an age of big data and ubiquitous surveillance”. It sets out seven key high-level recommendations to tackle the problem:

  • All levels of government should fully respect Canadians’ Charter rights and freedoms.
  • All proposals to change our privacy rights and freedoms should be presented, justified, and debated in a transparent manner, instead of being embedded in unrelated bills.
  • A halt to the expansion of ‘Lawful Access’ rules allowing for warrantless collection of Canadians’ private information without oversight.
  • Extended powers for federal and provincial Privacy Commissioners, including the power to prosecute and fine state bodies and private companies for breaches of privacy law.
  • All state security, intelligence, policing, and border agencies should be brought fully under proper legal regulation, judicial authorization, transparency, and democratic accountability.
  • Negotiations for international agreements that could undermine privacy should be transparent, consistent with the Charter, and subject to parliamentary and public scrutiny.
  • A full, transparent, and participatory public process to create a comprehensive legal framework for information and privacy rights and freedoms.

Professor David Murakami Wood, Canada Research Chair in Surveillance Studies, Queen's University, said: "Canada is deploying ever more surveillance in the name of safety and security, but the end result is discrimination, the reduction of privacy and the chilling of free speech. We need to stop and take stock of where Canada is going and if it is the kind of place that we would want to live in."

Professor Wood continued: "Canadian security and intelligence are centrally involved in the global U.S.-dominated spy networks revealed by Edward Snowden, but the Canadian government's reaction has been entirely inadequate. The current systems of oversight do not work. Canada should not act as a US mini-me and these rogue agencies should be brought under proper democratic control."

“No one wants to live under the microscope of government surveillance - that’s why Canadians are so fed up with the outrageous invasions of privacy being perpetrated by their government,” said Executive Director Steve Anderson. “The Ottawa Statement sets out high-level recommendations to rein in government surveillance, and safeguard the privacy of every resident of Canada. We now need to translate these goals into effective pro-privacy legislation in Ottawa. Unpopular out-of-control spying is going to cost taxpayers billions of dollars and Canadians simply aren’t going to stand for it.”

The Ottawa Statement is the result of consultation by the experts and academics involved, many of whom volunteered their time and expertise. Its release follows a series of revelations about how the government is undermining privacy while conducting warrantless surveillance on a mass scale. Canadians have learned that:

  • The government obtained citizens’ private information 1.2 million times in a single 12 month period (once every 27 seconds) - in the vast majority of cases without a warrant.
  • The government’s proposed Bill C-13 would grant legal immunity to telecoms who hand over customers’ private information without a warrant.
  • The government’s Bill S-4 would undermine privacy by enabling telecoms to hand over their customers’ sensitive information to private sector agencies, including U.S.-style copyright trolls.
  • The government’s spy agency CSEC was caught red-handed spying on thousands of law-abiding Canadian air travellers, and even tracking their movements for weeks.
  • CSEC also facilitated a massive U.S. spying operation on Canadian soil during the Toronto G-20 summit.

Canada’s leading privacy experts recently launched a groundbreaking book about surveillance entitled Transparent Lives. For more information, see:

Tens of thousands of Canadians are calling for effective legal measures to protect our privacy at


David Christopher
Communications Manager,
(778) 232-1858

Professor David Murakami Wood
Canada Research Chair in Surveillance Studies, Queen's University.
(343) 333-6533

Signatures to the Ottawa Statement

Experts supporting the Ottawa Statement include: Prof. David Murakami Wood, Dr. Jonathan Obar, Prof. David Lyon, Prof. Ron Deibert, Prof. Micheal Geist, Prof. Leslie Shade, Prof. Benjamin Goold, Prof. Andrew Clement, Dr. Monia Mazigh, Prof. Cindy Blackstock, Dr. Yasmeen Abu-Laban, Prof. David Grondin, Prof. Lisa Austin, Prof. Colin Bennett, Prof. Elena Razlogova, Prof. Christine Bruckert, Prof. Gabriella Coleman, Dr. Andrea Slane, Prof. Lori Stinson, Prof. Bryan Sacks, Prof. Teresa Scassa, Prof. David Phillips, Prof. Maritza Felices-Luna, Prof. Martin French, Prof. Ian Goldberg, Prof. Randal Marlin, Prof. Laureen Snider, Prof. Valerie Steeves, Prof. Dwayne Winseck, Prof. Benjamin Muller, Shawna Finnegan, Nadim Kobeissi, Sharon Polsky, Steve Chapman, Mathieu Gauthier-Pilote, Annette DeFaveri, Philippe Frowd, Dr. Brenda McPhail, Jennifer Barrigar, Ozgun Topak, Dr. Adam Molnar.

Groups supporting the Ottawa Statement include:, B.C. Civil Liberties Association, National Council of Women of Canada, Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen's University, Amnesty International Canada, Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, FACIL, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, Privacy and Access Council of Canada, National Council of Canadian Muslims, Canadian Institute of Access and Privacy, Privacy International, North American Association of Independent Journalists, Free Dominion, B.C. Library Association, B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, Pirate Party of Canada, Canadian Access and Privacy Association, Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

For more information see:

Politics of Surveillance