Two Conservative MPs made headlines last week when they were accused of breaching individual’s privacy through email.
Jason Kenney, Immigration Minister and MP for Calgary Southeast, distributed an email from his MP office on Sept. 21 to members of the LBGT community.
Individuals who received this email were concerned about how Kenney received their email information and knew about their sexual orientation.
Kenney’s email focused on describing the Conservative government’s achievements and support for the LGBT community, specifically support for LGBT refugees from Iran. Critics are now accusing this email as being a form of pink washing – an attempt to have individuals perceive the government as leaders in gay rights and protectors of LGBT Iranian refugees.
The CBC spoke with Datejie Green, a recipient of the email, who said “I wasn’t just disturbed, I was frightened, because they’re clearly stockpiling lists of particular constituencies of Canadians, for their propaganda.”
Many pointed to an online petition on change.org as the source of the email addresses. Recipients of Kenney’s email came forward saying that they also signed the petition, which supported a homosexual Nicaraguan artist who was facing deportation from Canada.
Joyce Bateman, MP for Winnipeg South Centre, was also criticized when her contingency assistant sent an email to over 1,500 individuals, exposing all of the addresses rather than blind carbon copying. Additionally, many individuals spoke out against this email due to the fact that they were not subscribers to Bateman’s bulletins.
Ashley Ford, a Winnipeg resident, explains that she received the email from Bateman’s office at two of her personal email addresses. Ford previously used one address to correspond with Bateman’s office, but is unsure of how they received her other address.
“On top of receiving an unsolicited mass email, which I am pretty sure would make it qualify as spam, my email has been given to a bunch of people I do not know. Email addresses are equivalent to telephone numbers. I doubt Ms. Bateman would appreciate over a thousand people knowing her home phone number,” said Ford.
Dougald Lamont was another recipient of the email. He reacted by responding to Bateman’s offer in the email to contact her with questions. Lamont responded with questions ranging from the Conservatives stance on torture, democracy, and detention without charge.
“I understand that it was a clerical error. But it illustrates a fundamental problem with people collecting data. It can be released by accident, or someone can hack into it,” Lamont said of the email.
When asked how the situation should be rectified, Lamont argued that the privacy act should apply to political parties and urged for transparency within the government.
Bateman told the Manitoban that her office does not solicit email addresses and the ones that were included in the email were addresses that individuals had used to contact her office previously.
“Our office takes all constituent inquiries very seriously and we take every opportunity to communicate with constituents on matters that are important to them. Any individual who wishes to be removed from our email list can contact our office to have their email address removed,” said Bateman.
The federal Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, told the CBC that Canadians have no legal rights in regards to their personal information being used by political parties for partisan purposes.
The email controversies come after the federal Conservatives introduced Bill C30 in February, which proposes increased access to Canadian’s personal information for police and national security agencies.