Canadian Civil Liberties Association has ‘serious concerns’ about CCTV expansion in Ontario

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) says it has “serious concerns” with Ontario’s plans to expand video surveillance coverage across the province and fears the technology could be used to unfairly target marginalized communities. Last week the province announced an additional investment of $2 million to expand closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems, calling the cameras “an essential tool in detecting criminal activity and keeping communities safe.”

“Robust CCTV surveillance systems are an essential tool to help combat gun and gang violence and keep our communities safe,” Solicitor General, Sylvia Jones, said in a release. “That is why it is important that we continue to help police services and their municipal partners expand surveillance capacity across the province.”

“This investment will provide our policing partners with the technology they need to detect criminal activity and ramp up the fight against crime.” The province’s latest investment will bolster the CCTV Grant program, which helps police and their municipal partners purchase CCTV equipment by covering 50 per cent of costs up to $200,000 for each successful project.

The province said the cameras would be installed in areas “with high rates of criminal activity including gun and gang violence.” The CCLA’s Privacy, Surveillance, and Technology Project Director, Brenda McPhail, believes the system can be abused without checks and balances in place.

“It’s important to understand that not everyone experiences police surveillance equally or feels safer being watched by law enforcement,” she told CityNews. “Such experiences are grounded in the systemic racism and discrimination that data tells us directs the watchful eye of the law disproportionately toward people that are Black, Indigenous, otherwise racialized or marginalized.