¡ª Canada's growing desire to share information with the
United States in the fight against terrorism has complicated
plans to build a national justice super computer.
An internal review obtained by The Canadian Press calls
on federal officials to devise a strategy that will ensure
the planned Canada Public Safety Information Network can
communicate with systems in the United States and other
"World events and new realities have brought
international information-sharing to the forefront,"
says the mid-term review of the $420-million digital
megaproject, launched in 1999.
"Originally intended as a national system, (the
safety network's) technology must now consider the needs of
the international community."
A copy of the report, completed last June, was released
by the Public Safety Department under the Access to
Technological headaches, a lack of continuing funding and
privacy concerns are among the many obstacles to creating
the ambitious "network of networks" that will link
key justice databases, the review warns.
"It's complicated beyond belief," acknowledged
Carrie Hunter, a deputy director general at Public Safety.
"On the other hand, it's so important and will make
such a difference."
Release of the findings comes just weeks after
Auditor-General Sheila Fraser reported that federal agencies
do not share some vital information, and not all of their
systems can communicate with one another.
An initial version of the computerized safety information
system will be used routinely by the RCMP, Correctional
Services Canada, National Parole Board, Justice Department
and Canada Border Services Agency. It is scheduled for
completion next year.
The network will include criminal-record histories and
scanned fingerprint images, among other data.
But the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have
prompted officials to look at expanding the system to
include additional government agencies concerned with public
safety, as well as consider the "ever-growing
requirement" to exchange information with the United
States, the review says.
Otherwise, "valuable information, such as ship
registration and Canadian passport information might go
unshared with agencies that could use it to better protect
The complexity of establishing the justice super computer
"should not be underestimated," the report
stresses. It notes that fewer than 20 per cent of large
computer-system developments are successful and, of these,
only half are finished within the allotted budget.
A "lack of resources" at some agencies involved
in the project has hampered progress, the review says. It
urges senior officials to come up with a means of funding
the network on a continuing basis.
Ms. Hunter said agencies are searching for a solution
that won't break the bank. "If you want to just keep
spending money on technology, you can, and we're not
recommending that. We're recommending it be very
Federal research has found support among front-line
justice workers for including such sensitive data as iris
scans, travel destinations of individuals and information
about current criminal probes on the digital network.
Given the protections afforded under privacy legislation
and the Charter of Rights, the review recommends creating a
new law governing information exchanges via the new system.