Government went too far in surveillance of First Nations advocate: report

May 31, 2013
Article Source
Winnipeg Free Press

Two government departments went too far in their monitoring of a First Nations children's advocate and her personal Facebook page, federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart has found.

Stoddart was looking into a complaint filed by activist Cindy Blackstock, who is the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, an organization fighting the federal government in court over First Nations child welfare programs.

The commissioner found that Aboriginal Affairs and the Department of Justice seemed to violate the spirit of the Privacy Act when they compiled reams of information from Blackstock's personal Facebook page.

"It raises the question: who else?" said NDP aboriginal affairs critic Jean Crowder.

Officials knew full well that they were delving into personal information, and not just Blackstock's thoughts on child welfare policy, the report states.

However, the senior officials in charge of the First Nations child welfare dossier gave written permission to departmental information technicians to dig through all of Blackstock's Facebook pages and collect screen shots and records of page excerpts for circulation to other government officials, Stoddart found.

Indeed, an Aboriginal Affairs IT worker filled out a "website access request form" to get approval from the lead lawyer on the case to comb through Blackstock's personal Facebook page.

The permission was needed to bypass network security, the report explained.

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