May 7, 2020
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has always said the Quayside smart city project, co-led by Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs, needed to be reset. We launched our court application to help make that happen. Today’s news that Sidewalk Labs has withdrawn from pursuing the project is a victory for privacy and democracy, clearing the way for that reset to take place.
Waterfront Toronto never had the jurisdiction to sign off on a data surveillance test bed with a Google sibling. Serious harms to privacy would have been our future. The current Canadian regulatory landscape simply lacks modernized privacy legislation to provide essential safeguards to protect residents and visitors from the kinds of ubiquitous and intensive sensor-laden infrastructure that was envisaged. So the project was fundamentally flawed from the outset. Now we as a society have a chance to fix that privacy deficit and provide the right foundation to consider how, where, and when technology can be used to meet real city needs, as expressed and experienced by residents.
We firmly believe that a major factor in the Quayside reset was the powerful resident and legal challenge, from CCLA, from #BlockSidewalk, and from the thousands of people who attended consultations, asking critical questions, and demanding protection for their rights. People in Toronto called for city building focused on resident needs and led with democratic accountability — something Waterfront Toronto never had. We now have another chance to get this right.
At CCLA, we strive to set precedents that support civil liberties, rights and freedoms across Canada. The precedent set today is a good one. We look forward to contributing to any constitutionally sound, transparent effort to get this right; to restructure the Quayside vision as one that will be genuinely sustainable, privacy respecting, and inclusive—a Smart City that Toronto deserves.
In the spirit of transparency, we are making public all the documents we served upon Waterfront Toronto, including the expert reports that hit the sidewalk last week, perhaps the final dagger to Quayside. As for the litigation, we will await the fate of the legal agreements between Sidewalk and Waterfront, before being able to confirm the expected. Thank you to Fogler Rubinoff LLP: Bill Hearn, Young Park, and his litigation team.
About the Canadian Civil Liberties Association
The CCLA is an independent, non-profit organization with supporters from across the country. Founded in 1964, the CCLA is a national human rights organization committed to defending the rights, dignity, safety, and freedoms of all people in Canada.
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