Contributing Lawyers

Canada

Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross

Australia

Andrew Hudson



BEWARE - Canada Border Services Agency WILL Read Lawyer's Mail

I can report this because it happened to me and not a client.  The Canada Border Services opened mail addressed to "Todgham Cherniak, Counsel, Lang Michener LLP".  The Canada Border Services Agency knew the package was being sent to a lawyer at a lawyer's office and they opened it and read it.  I know because the package arrived re-taped and a stamp notified me that the contents were "EXAMINES / RELEASED - CUSTOMS - TORONTO - DOUANES, EXAMINE / LIBERE".  However, there is no indication of the date that this invasion of privacy occurred and there is no indication of the identy of the officer who made the decision to examine my package.  There certainly was no reasonable or probably cause to examine this lawyer's mail.

I am a customs lawyer in Canada at a top tier Canadian national law firm.  This blog is read by some at the Canada Border Services Agency.  I am the past chair of the Canadian Bar Association, National Sales, Tax, Customs and Trade Section, Customs Subcommittee and am now the Secretary/Treasurers.  So, I am a known Canadian customs lawyer and the Canada Border Services Agency read my mail that was sent by courier from the United States to Canada.

No confidential information was read because the package was from Dr. Henry T. King of the Canada-United States Law Institute.  But, what if a client was sending me information relating to a customs dispute with the Canada Border Services Agency?  What if the Canada Border Services Agency is reviewing he mail of lawyers to obtain their clients' confidential information? 

At the present time, lawyers in Canada are not required to report suspicious transactions for the Government to look into potential money laundering.  What if the CBSA is openeing the mail of Canadian law firms to undertake their own investigation even when the courts of Canada and the legislation does not give the CBSA or the Government such power?

This was a serious breach and I am asking questions.  I am also taking this opportunity to alert the readers of this blog to the fact that the Canada Border Services Agency will open the mail of a customs lawyer at a prominent Canadian law firm.  They may be opening the mail of other lawyers (I cannot be the only one).

As for clients, if you are sending information to a Canadian lawyer that must be sent to the lawyer from outside Canada, be aware that the Canada Border Services Agency may read your confidential communications if they are in a readable format.  Please send documents by email (and avoid the eyes of the Canada Border Services Agency altogether).  If you must send documents by courier, please send the documents on a encrypted thumb drive - otherwise the Canada Border Services Agency might take a copy.

This should not happen in Canada.  I welcome other incidents to be brought to my attention.

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