The Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal, Court Martial Appeal Court and Tax Court are preparing to take the Canadian government to task on ensuring independence from the federal government regarding its data. Under the past conservative government, all these levels of the courts were to submit to a super-IT department as of September 1st of last year that would see all government services including Canadian courts using the same IT department. The move by the last government to amalgamate IT services was seemingly to save money and streamline IT security.
According to the Supreme Court of Canada, one super IT department could threaten its independence from Government. Briefing notes obtained by the Canadian Press last week, and provided to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau days after taking office, shows the courts are gearing up for a constitutional challenge on data independence. The briefing stated:
“[The courts] must maintain control of their data, not only because of concerns about confidentiality, but also because an independent judiciary cannot tolerate having its sensitive information controlled by a separate branch of government.”
The briefing notes also warned that if the Government doesn’t backtrack on this soon, it could face legal action and likely a constitutional challenge by the top judges in Canada. Advice given to Trudeau on how to handle this situation by his advisers was redacted in the briefing notes.
Prior to September 1st last year when these new IT rules came into play, top court officials wrote a letter to senior bureaucrats in the Conservative government demanding that agents of Parliament such as the Auditor General, Privacy Commissioner and Information Commissioner should be exempt from amalgamated IT services. Yesterday, the new Liberal government went before the Supreme Court asking for a six month extension on right to die legislation. Should the court deny that extension, this spat over IT services and data independence could end up being an interesting back story.