Canada: Storing Data In Canada Won't Necessarily Shield It From US Scrutiny

Last Updated: January 20 2016
Article by Douglas Scott

Most Read Contributor in Canada, September 2018

Two recent decisions emphasize that data seized in Canada by Canadian authorities is nevertheless subject to investigation by foreign, and in particular American authorities. Storage of data in Canada will not necessarily shield if from review by foreign authorities.

The Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act (the "Act") provides for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters between Canada and foreign nations.1 As most of us raced to get ready for the holidays, Ontario and British Columbia courts released two intriguing decisions addressing whether the Act permits expert investigators from the United States to analyze data seized under warrant in Canada.

United States of America v. Bin

Su Bin is a Vancouver business man ordered to be extradited to the U.S. to face charges of hacking into U.S. computers to steal valuable military aircraft information. The U.S. government alleges that Mr. Bin conspired with two members of the Chinese military to access without authorization the computer networks of various American defence contractors and steal highly sensitive technical information related to the F-35 and F-22 fighter aircraft.

Following Mr. Su's arrest by the RCMP in June 2014, the U.S. government requested that the RCMP seize digital devices and media from Mr. Bin's Vancouver residence.2 The purpose of the seizure was to uncover email correspondence between Mr. Su and his Chinese co-conspirators. Acting under a warrant granted pursuant to s.14 of the Act, the RCMP conducted a search of Mr. Bin's Vancouver residence and seized various digital storage devices, Mr. Bin's mobile phone, and his laptop.3

The amount of documents and data seized from Mr. Bin's residence totaled in excess of 300,000 pages, the majority of which was written in simplified Chinese characters.4 Due to the highly technical nature of the information Mr. Bin is alleged to have stolen, the RCMP did "not have any members" capable of translating Mr. Bin's documents.5

This proved to be significant to the RCMP's ability to provide the requested investigative assistance to the U.S. as, under the Act, before there can be an Order sending the results of a search warrant to the country that has requested Canadian assistance, two conditions must be met:

  1. the peace officer who executed the warrant is required by s.14 of the Act to prepare a report that includes "a general description of the records or things seized;" and
  2. the judge from whom the sending order is sought must then be satisfied, pursuant to s.15 of the Act, that the warrant was executed according to its terms and conditions.6

On the assumption that the RCMP could satisfy neither of the above conditions without first translating Mr. Bin's documents, the British Columbia Attorney General applied to the British Columbia Supreme Court for an order permitting an FBI "clean team" of "translators, linguists and/or agents" to assist the RCMP with the translation of Mr. Bin's documents.7 Mr. Bin's lawyer objected to the involvement of the FBI team on the grounds that once Mr, Bin's information had been transferred to the U.S., a Canadian court would have no authority to ensure that the information was used lawfully.8

Despite sympathizing with the concerns expressed by Mr. Bin's counsel, Justice Schultes held that s.12(2) of the Act grants a judge the power to make the order sought by the Attorney General.9

United States of America v. Equinix Inc.

Decided two days prior to Bin, the case United States of America v. Equinix Inc., involved 32 computer servers seized pursuant to the Act at the request of the U.S..10 Analogously to Bin, Equinix involved an application by the Attorney General of Canada for an order permitting a team of American investigators to examine the seized servers in Canada.11 The Attorney General also requested permission for the American team to prepare a report pursuant to s.14 of the Act, outlining the data stored on the seized servers.12

Framing the issue somewhat differently from Justice Schultes, Justice Quigley of the Ontario Superior Court stated that the "core" of the Attorney General's application is the need to balance the privacy interests of Canadians with Canada's international obligations and the requirements of the Act.13 Finding that it is unreasonable to assume that U.S. officials will intentionally violate a Canadian court order,14 Justice Quigley held that the American investigators could examine the servers, and produce their proposed report, provided they agreed to submit a copy of the report to Justice Quigley prior to applying for a sending order under s.15 of the Act.15 In essence, Justice Quigley found that the involvement of US investigators in a Canadian data seizure is permissible, provided the US investigators agree to submit to Canadian judicial oversight.


The Bin and Equinix decisions illustrate that data seized in Canada by Canadian authorities is nevertheless subject to investigation by foreign, and in particular American authorities. Directors should understand that storing data in Canada will not necessarily shield that data from review and evaluation. Indeed the express purpose of the Act is to facilitate information sharing between Canadian and foreign law enforcement bodies.


*Douglas Scott is an articling student in our Calgary office.

[1] Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. 30 (4th Supp.).

[2] United States of America v. Bin, 2015 BCSC 2381 at para 2.

[3] Ibid at para 3.

[4] Ibid at para 4.

[5] Ibid at para 5.

[6] Ibid at para 6.

[7] Ibid at para 8.

[8] Ibid at para 17.

[9] Ibid at para 27.

[10] United States of America v. Equinix Inc., 2015 ONSC 7803 at para 1.

[11] Ibid at para 5.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid at para 30.

[14] Ibid at para 26.

[15] Ibid.

To view original article, please click here.

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