Ottawa’s digital ID program could lead to a Beijing-style social credit system, says Legal Advocacy Group

A Canadian legal advocacy group says the federal government’s proposed digital identity program is likely to be used to access private information and increase control over people, drawing comparisons to Beijing’s social credit system .

Details of the program were revealed in a report titled Canada’s Digital Ambition 2022, posted on the federal government’s website on August 4. The report notes Canadians’ increased reliance on digital platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic and notes that the government’s ID program to deliver its services through “modernized and accessible tools.”

But in a recent report, titled Canada’s Road to Beijing, the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms warned that Canadians could be giving up their Charter-protected rights and freedoms, drawing a parallel between the use of digital identity technologies in Canada and in China, which the constitutional rights group said “are uncomfortably close.”

“The convenience of digital identification is far outweighed by its potential cost: Canadian governments now have the ability to access detailed, personal, confidential and real-time information about the personal affairs of Canadians,” the report states.

“Digital ID also allows governments to violate the rights and freedoms that Canadians have enjoyed for centuries, treating them instead as privileges to be earned through ‘correct’ behavior. … At the end of this road is the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) “social credit system,” which uses its total surveillance system to monitor, punish, and reward its citizens.

The Digital Identity Program is the three-year, annual, forward-looking strategic plan of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Canada. The Epoch Times has reached out to the IOC for comment, but had no response at the time of publication.

social credit system

China’s social credit system, which launched its first national pilot program in 2014 and was rolled out in major cities across the country in March 2018, has been the subject of warnings from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS ), according to the Justice Center.

“Big data allows the Party [Chinese Communist Party] to extend its already extensive control over the lives of Chinese citizens. The developing social credit system will allow comprehensive data collection to measure individual loyalty to the state,” according to a 2018 CSIS report.

“Data can be collected on companies and individuals abroad, which poses a challenge for countries that do not wish to be part of a Chinese system of social control. China’s big data strategy can improve political control without improving the actual quality of governance.

Those with poor social credit in China have reportedly been denied access to public facilities and services. Just two months after it was introduced in 2018, the system had blocked 11 million flights and 4 million train journeys, Business Insider reported.

While the Canadian Digital ID Program report nods to several provinces that are also moving forward with digital ID plans, the president of the Justice Center warned that the policy, once implemented , could also lead to rapid changes in Canadian society.

“What Canadians need today is not unrestricted government access to private information, but rather a renewed commitment to charter rights and freedoms. We are on the road to Beijing, and Canadians should be worried,” John Carpay said in a press release.

“Things are changing rapidly, and Canadians should be very concerned that a free and democratic society is rapidly moving towards one where citizens can be overruled by the government at the flick of a switch.”

Warnings for Canada

The Justice Center said that while Canada is not yet China, the Liberal government’s past behaviors have raised concerns about its willingness to increase surveillance and overreach and “to abuse the rights and Charter Freedoms,” particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The center criticized the federal government for tracking and freezing the bank accounts of supporters of the Freedom Convoy truckers protest. The protest, held for more than three weeks in downtown Ottawa starting in late January, called for an end to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions. On February 14, the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act, giving financial institutions special powers to freeze the bank accounts of those involved in the movement without judicial review in order to protect privacy or private property.

The Justice Center also pointed to reports showing the federal government was testing facial recognition technologies on millions of travelers at Toronto’s Pearson Airport in 2016 and allowing data collection from 33 million mobile devices during the war. COVID-19 pandemic.

“So Canadians have already had a taste of the CPC-style social credit system,” the center said in its report. “Across Canada, as governments and corporations continue to collect, centralize and share private information about the physical and financial characteristics and behaviors of Canadians, alarm bells should ring.

“Canadians are urged to educate themselves and their political leaders about the dangers posed by digital ID technologies.

The Justice Center report concluded that no government should trust digital ID technologies.

“The question for Canadians…is not whether this federal government can trust digital ID. The question is whether any government, federal or provincial, can resist the temptation to ignore the Charter rights to freedom of expression, conscience, worship, association, peaceful assembly, displacement, privacy or security of the person, when those in power perceive a benefit to arise by ignoring them,” the report states.

“The short answer is no.’ As Canada’s introduction of digital ID, digital currency, and recent instances of government abuse of power echo similar developments in China, alarm bells should be ringing across the country. Canadians have good reason to fear that they too will end up living under a system similar to the social credit system.

Rachel Emmanuel contributed to this article

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Andrew Chen is an Epoch Times reporter based in Toronto.

Ryan H. Bowman