Tory MPP Laurie Scott
Credits: JASON BAIN/QMI AGENCY
TORONTO - Ontario hunters are up in arms, literally.
Tory MPP Laurie Scott said they're angry after learning their personal information is flowing across the US border.
Hunters accessing the Ministry of Natural Resources' new electronic licensing system are being told on an automated message that their information may be subject to foreign laws, she said.
"They're outraged that this exists," Scott said. "I know the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) are quite concerned about it too."
A contract to operate the Licensing Automation Service starting Jan. 1 - replacing a paper-based system - was awarded to the U.S.-based Active Outdoors.
OFAH said in a news release that many members are worried about the movement of their information across an international border to a country where the US Patriot Act prevails.
To add insult to injury, OFAH said funds collected from hunters and anglers to support fish and wildlife programs are now being used to buy the more expensive stamps needed to mail back Ontario game licences from the contractor's operation in Nashville, TN.
"Every piece of mail being sent from the US is costing the SPA (Special Purpose Account) 16 cents more than a Canadian stamp," OFAH executive director Angelo Lombardo said. "Tens of thousands of dollars slated for fish and wildlife are going to be wasted on the US postal service if the province doesn't correct this issue."
Scott said Ontarians are concerned about the implications if U.S. border crossing officials learn they possess hunting weapons.
The Tory MPP said she will be seeking an opinion from the provincial privacy commissioner on whether Ontario laws trump US laws when the information is held in the states.
National Resources Minister Michael Gravelle said the government included iron-clad privacy protections in the contract it signed with the American company.
"The company understands how important the privacy issue is from our perspective in terms of the province of Ontario," Gravelle said.
Any attempt to use personal information for any other purpose than issuing Ontario licences would require the pre-approval of his ministry, which he's not prepared to give, he said.
Active Outdoors won the contract to design and operate the province's new automated fishing and hunting licence system, issue game seals and conduct harvest report through a competitive process.
The province said the company's contract obliges it to follow Ontario's Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act.