Canada: Privacy Concerns Continue Over Border Security Television Show

Last Updated: November 11 2013
Article by Selina Koonar

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) continues to participate in a documentary television series called Border Security: Canada's Front Line that follows the regular day-to-day duties of CBSA employees. The second season has aired even after the controversies of the first season have yet to be fully resolved.

The show has been criticized for violating the Privacy Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. P-21) which prohibits government agencies from collecting or using information in ways that fall outside its legal mandate. Furthermore, the show has been criticised for filming travellers crossing Canada's border without their free and informed consent. The CBSA states that it is currently working with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to address concerns raised over the Agency's participation in the documentary series.

CBSA's Legislative Mandate

The CBSA states the show is not a CBSA or Government of Canada initiative. It is produced, owned and financed by BST 2 Media Inc., a subsidiary of a Vancouver-based television production company called Force Four Productions Ltd. However, the government's engagement was noted when it was disclosed that Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews, had approved the release of a demo reel of the show in 2011, authorizing the CBSA to enter negotiations for a full series to be developed for broadcast in Canada. In March 2013, Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews, also publicly defended his decision to approve the show. Furthermore, while the CBSA states that it only provides Force Four with access to its facilities, the agreement between Force Four and the CBSA states that representatives of the CBSA Communications Directorate must be present during all filming. In addition, the CBSA also identifies scenarios, sites and storylines for the show, and retains the right to review and approve all rough footage. The CBSA states "it is the policy of the Government of Canada to ensure that institutions are visible, accessible and accountable to the public they serve."

The CBSA views its participation in the show as an opportunity to educate the public about its mandate and the role its officers play in ensuring Canada's safety and prosperity. The CBSA's legislative mandate, as noted by Canada Border Services Agency Act (S.C. 2005, c. 38), is "providing... border services that support national security and public safety... and facilitate the free flow of persons and goods." The CBSA's own Charter also includes a commitment to respecting individuals' privacy and confidentiality.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) believes the Canadian government should not be actively supporting and participating in an activity that so grievously violates the rights of its citizens. It takes the position that filming for the purposes of a reality TV show serves absolutely no public purpose related to the CBSA's legislative mandate. The BCCLA notes that while there is no direct financial cost to the CBSA, "the government agency's contribution in terms of staff supervising film shoots, and providing editing and review of the show is 'not insignificant.'"

As such, the BCCLA intends to file a privacy complaint if individuals have found their privacy rights violated and wish to take further action. It asks members of the public who think they may have been filmed for this TV series while at the port of entry to contact them with their stories.

Informed Consent

Additionally, the BCCLA has launched an effort to allow travellers to explicitly refuse consent for CBSA, and Force Four, to film them and to collect and use their personal information and images in the Border Security show.

The CBSA states that all participation in the series is strictly voluntary and each filming opportunity is evaluated on a case-by-case basis taking into account operational, security and safety matters as well as relevant legal restrictions. It notes that if any persons filmed, including CBSA personnel, are identifiable the production company must obtain a consent form from such persons allowing their image and/or voice to be used. The CBSA requires the production company to conceal the identity of any person identifiable in an episode who has not consented to use of footage.

However, the CBSA received criticism in March 2013 for documenting and filming the CBSA on a raid of a Vancouver construction site searching for undocumented workers. In one case, a consent form for the show was obtained only after a migrant worker was detained and was signed under great duress and confusion. In this regard, the BCCLA lodged a formal complaint with the Privacy Commissioner on behalf of a migrant worker filmed during the raid (he was later deported on March 19th, 2013). The BCCLA reports that Force Four has since agreed not to air any of the footage obtained during the raid.

Since that incident, the CBSA also has stated that it has limited the filming of inland enforcement activities to situations involving individuals wanted for "serious criminality" or those on CBSA's "most wanted" list. The CBSA further notes that Force Four will not film without permission from the CBSA. All Force Four crew members will be accompanied by a CBSA escort at all times while filming or on CBSA premises and each filming opportunity is evaluated on a case-by-case basis taking into account operational, security and safety matters as well as relevant legal restrictions.

The current method of informed consent is by way of signs posted at the BC-US border which state that a traveller's presence at the border crossing, without any objection otherwise, constitutes consent to being featured on the show. If an individual does not want to have their personal information (i.e. their image) collected for this purpose, they are still required to actively opt-out of being filmed by notifying the film crew that they do not want their images to be used in the show. The signs found at the border-crossing inform travellers that individuals will not be identifiable in the series without first giving permission:

"Please be advised that BST Media 2 Inc. is filming scenes and background material in this area, for use in a television documentary series about border security and the Canada Border Services Agency. You will not be identifiable in the series without your permission. If you are in the background while others are being filmed, or if you do not agree to be identifiable in the series, your image will be altered so you are not recognizable. If you see the crew filming in your area and do not wish to be filmed, please notify a crew member and we will accommodate you. If you don't see a camera crew, no filming is taking place."

The BCCLA takes the position that filming individuals for entertainment purposes, by government and its agents, without obtaining full and freely-given informed consent remains a grievous infringement on their right to privacy. Canadians have the right to lawfully enter and exit the country as they please, and should not be subjected to being filmed for the purposes of a reality TV show to do so. Simply being present in a location (an airport or border crossing) that you are required to be in by law (in order to enter Canada) does not constitute informed consent to be filmed for a TV show.

The Show

The show premiered in Canada on Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 9 pm. Season 2 aired on August 27, 2013 on the National Geographic Channel with a commitment of 26 new episodes. Over 11 million Canadian viewers have seen Season 1 and it is now also being aired in over 50 other countries including Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and in many countries in Asia. It is based on Border Security: Australia's Front Line which is now in its 11th season.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions