Masse Requests Answers from Minister Van Loan regarding US Border Surveillance over Sarnia, Ontario

August 6, 2009

Honourable Peter Van Loan
Minister of Public Safety
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON

Dear Minister Van Loan,

I am writing you today concerning the deployment of a fixed placed surveillance balloon in Port Huron, Michigan which is causing significant public consternation and raising important privacy and sovereignty issues.

The Sierra Nevada Corporation, a private company, has installed an advanced resolution video camera on a 60 foot dirigible located 800 feet above the City of Port Huron. The camera faces the Sarnia waterfront and captures businesses, homes and government offices.

This new surveillance device has been established without any consultation with the public. Accordingly, I am requesting that the Minister of Public Safety ask the United States Homeland Security Secretary to remove the surveillance balloon and initiate immediate community outreach and input on this device.

Additionally, I am asking for the release or disclosure of any studies on the need for this type surveillance equipment. As you know the US-Canada border in Sarnia, Windsor, and numerous other places are already patrolled and monitored by helicopters, boats, the Coast Guard, watchtowers, and soon to be deployed unmanned drones. The need for this obstructive and disturbing surveillance balloon has never been made public by any government agency.

Furthermore, its installation and operation by a foreign corporation located in the United Sates but focusing on Canadian territory and residents is deeply troubling. The privacy concerns of both US and Canadian citizens cannot be underestimated by this development as well as the additional issues of accountability, transparency, and the use of materials and data obtained by such a device.

Canada’s sovereignty as well as border security cooperation with the United States is called into question by this situation. An urgent response from the highest authorities in our country is needed.

I look forward to your communication on this issue.

(original signed by)
Brian Masse, M. P.
Windsor West