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Was Canada’s Privacy Commissioner targeted for opposition to intrusive security policies?

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It’s interesting to note that Radwanski was turfed from office before he was able to finalize and release the Privacy Commissioner’s annual report to Parliament for 2001-2002, the recommendations of which were swept under the carpet. It includes the following warning to Canadians, among many specific warnings regarding intrusive surveillance (including biometric ID checks, public police surveillance, enhanced national ID cards to track travel, and data-mining to spy on citizen’s use of the Internet): “September 11 is being invoked as a kind of magic incantation to stifle debate, disparage critical analysis and persuade us that we suddenly live in a new world where the old rules cannot apply.” In light of the fact that he was absolutely correct, it seems likely that Radwanksi stepped out of the party line and was pilloried for standard expense practices. If the law were not so selectively enforced, we’d see a lot more of our publicly elected officials being held to account for abuses of the public purse.

Tim Naumetz, The Canadian Press
September 23, 2008

OTTAWA—Former privacy commissioner George Radwanski is blaming a bureaucrat for some of his expense account troubles.

He told his fraud trial yesterday that a senior manager in his office [who? - Ed.] advised him to take out a disputed $15,000 travel advance in 2002 to help pay off his American Express travel card.

Radwanski testified that same bureaucrat advised him a year later he could take out another advance for the same amount while the office was still trying to reconcile expense claims and reimbursements from the initial credit card bill.

Radwanski also defended thousands of dollars in meals with his communications director, saying he needed the time alone with her to “brainstorm” and hammer out issues while he was facing an extraordinary workload.

The former privacy commissioner told Ontario Court Justice Paul Belanger he was “near burnout” in 2001 and 2002 as he travelled extensively within Canada and abroad, first to promote and explain a new privacy law covering much of the private sector and then dealing with an assault on privacy following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I’ve never worked so hard in my life,” said Radwanski.

The law, the Personal Information and Protection of Documents Act, was to take effect Jan. 1, 2001, but the privacy office had no communications plan or information to explain its effects on either businesses or individuals.

The law extended privacy rules to businesses under federal jurisdiction, including banks, airlines, railroads and companies involved in interprovincial commerce.

The requirement to explain the new law, combined with threats to privacy under new anti-terrorism legislation following the 9/11 attacks, led to an exhausting cycle of travel and dawn-to-dusk working hours, said Radwanski, a former editor-in-chief of the Star.

Radwanski, testifying as the first witness in his own defence, also rationalized regular business lunches he had with his communications director, Donna Vallieres, during his nearly three years in the office .

Vallieres, who was also head of policy and research in the office, was a crucial adviser and strategist, Radwanski said.

He said he and Vallieres would have business lunches on average once a week, sometimes twice, but he said he first cleared the procedure with his executive director, Julien Delisle.

Radwanski said he chose to dine in the kind of upscale restaurants other senior bureaucrats selected, including Auditor General Sheila Fraser. [Who initiated the RCMP investigation - Ed.]

Radwanski said Fraser twice invited him to the Rideau Club at taxpayer expense for working lunches, which included wine with the meals.

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