There are many ways in which Canadian government departments share information for national and international law enforcement purposes. The Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has entered into numerous information sharing agreements with other federal agencies, with provincial agencies and with agencies of foreign governments.

Citizenship and Immigration and Canada Border Services entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on March 27, 2006 addressing information sharing and the provision of services within their mandates.

Citizenship and Immigration, Canada Border Services and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on April 21, 2008 to permit information sharing. This MOU does not specifically address the sharing of personal information.

Information Sharing with the U.S.

A Statement of Mutual Understanding (SMU) on Information Sharing was agreed to by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the U.S. Department of State.

This SMU is not legally binding; however, it does carry political weight. It applies to all information exchanges between the participants (CIC, the INS and the US. Department of State) and provides for a wide range of disclosures from the three parties to other agencies of the U.S. and Canadian governments.

Under the SMU, the personal information that may be shared includes a wide range of biographical data, biometric data, family data, immigration, criminal and intelligence information about an individual or a group.

The SMU specifies a procedure for information sharing between the participants:

  1. Information may be volunteered by one party or provided to the other party upon request;
  2. Requests may relate to individuals or groups;
  3. Requests are not required to be made in writing so long as the request is confirmed in writing as soon as practicable after receipt of the information; and
  4. Information may be shared between the participants either on a case-by-case basis or systematically.

Information exchanged among Citizenship and Immigration and the U.S. Dept of Immigration and Naturalization and the U.S. Department of State may be disclosed to other agencies under limited conditions. It is notable that the participants are required to obtain written permission for the disclosure of information to third parties except for disclosure to certain specified agencies including:

Canadian recipients include:

Access to information must be restricted to a need-to-know basis and the information must be kept secure to prevent unauthorized access. The SMU imposes certain conditions for the sharing of information, including that the sharing is to be carried out in a manner that is consistent with the domestic laws of Canada and the U.S.

Essentially, personal information held by Citizenship and Immigration Canada can be given to the U.S. Department of State, and from there may be widely circulated among many American government departments and agencies. While there are conditions attached to these disclosures, the conditions imposed are minimally protective of privacy rights of Canadians, because, as critics point out, the laws of the U.S. are less privacy–protective than the laws of Canada.

Once the personal information from Canada is in the control of a U.S. government agency there a lower degree of regulatory protection applicable, and a greater ability to use the information for purposes which would not be acceptable under Canadian law.