According to an item on the Western News, the University of Western Ontario is entering into an arrangement to have a US-based company administer the faculty pension. That has made at least one person unhappy that Canadian faculty info will be within the reach of the USA Patriot Act.
Communications and Public Affairs
Senator member Mike Carroll wants written assurance faculty pension information will never be turned over to secret U.S.intelligence courts. But he isn't holding his breath.
So why be concerned if you're not a terrorist?
The statement seems to be saying that they might well transmit our pension data across international boundaries - and this of course would in itself bring such data within reach of the Patriot Act
Ok, but so what? No terrorists here, right? Why worry? Actually, for several reasons. U.S. FIS courts operate in secrecy with little or no oversight (it's a crime to reveal an action of this court and a felony not to comply with an order to turn over records). As any number of academic bodies in the U.S. (including a number of academic Senates just a tad more activist than ours) have suggested, the wide-ranging authority granted under the Patriot Act poses a threat to civil liberties and creates a climate of fear that undermines academic freedom. In addition, the combination of such wide ranging-power with strict secrecy means that mistakes affecting ordinary (and innocent) people are easy to make and hard to correct (think Ted Kennedy and the "no fly" list).
U.S. academics have no choice at the moment. They are subject to the Patriot Act. But it seems to me entirely inappropriate that the Western Administration should so casually enter into an institutional arrangement that likely puts our personal data within reach of U.S. courts acting under the authority of that Act. At Senate tomorrow, I will be asking the Administration to seek explicit written assurances from Buck Consultants Canada that they will not be shipping our data across international boundaries and would not comply with a FIS court order to turn over data.
Simple. questions that should have straightforward answers. Anyone want to bet we'll ever see those answers? I personally think it unlikely, unless of course someone in SLB decides it might improve our grade on the Globe and Mail scorecard.