Monday, January 05, 2009

CBSA opens lawyer's mail

Cyndee Cherniak, at Trade Lawyers Blog, reports on receiving a peice of mail addressed to her -- clearly a lawyer -- that had been opened and "inspected" by the Canada Border Services Agency. She is understandably angry.

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

This is a gross affront to solicitor-client privilege and privacy. In my view, mail that is clearly sent to a lawyer should be subject to additional protection. Given the important role of privilege in our legal system, warrants to search lawyers' offices require additional safeguards. Surely similar protections for mail to lawyers are warranted.

4 comments:

Bob Tarantino said...

I certainly share the concern, but I'm not certain in this case that the package was "clearly" being sent to a lawyer. As Todgham Cherniak notes, the package was addressed to her by name, with the words "counsel" and "Lang Michener LLP" appended. The only real clue in the label then is "counsel" - and I'm not sure that's an immediate tip-off to everyone that they are dealing with something addressed to a lawyer. Certainly the mere presence of Cyndee's name and the name of her firm would be highly unlikely to trigger recognition in a front-line CBSA employee. Perhaps we should encourage a protocol whereby cross-border communications are stamped "solicitor-client privilege - confidential", or something similar?

Anonymous said...

So to bypass customs by say a "less than honest person" you just have to stamp "solicitor-client privilege - confidential" on it & it's exempt? With CBSA's security cleaance, unless it's a threat to Canadian security, I don't think they care what it says. If it's entering the country I'd rather have a small breach of privacy that a potential huge breach of security. Just my 2 cents.....

Anonymous said...

I believe that this "lawyer" should read up on the customs act, and they will find out that CBSA can open, or cause to open anything that is being imported or exported to/from Canada. This also includes diplomatic mail if it is warranted, and I do believe that is a bit more important than a simple lawyer who doesn't understand the law

Anonymous said...

actually the Customs Act only allows for packages over 30 grams to be opened. And what happens to Attorney - client privilege, if all a state agent has to do is pass it through the CBSA?! All you who explain this away are inviting a police state imo.