Canadian attorney Michael Power has an interesting article about border searches involving electronic devices that compares the Canadian courts to U.S. law. He writes, in part:
The United States has a formal policy on the subject of laptop border searches readily available; Canada doesn’t. We do, however, have case law. In R. v. Simmons, the Supreme Court of Canada, expressly addressing s. 98 of the Customs Act (the legal provision providing the necessary authority) and ruled on the constitutionality of warrantless customs searches.
In relying in part on language found in Hunter v. Southam, the Chief Justice stated quite plainly:
“I accept the proposition advanced by the Crown that the degree of personal privacy reasonably expected at customs is lower than in most other situations. People do not expect to be able to cross international borders free from scrutiny. It is commonly accepted that sovereign states have the right to control both who and what enters their boundaries. For the general welfare of the nation the state is expected to perform this role. … Consequently, travellers seeking to cross national boundaries fully expect to be subject to a screening process. This process will typically require the production of proper identification and travel documentation and involve a search process beginning with completion of a declaration of all goods being brought into the country. Physical searches of luggage and of the person are accepted aspects of the search process where there are grounds for suspecting that a person has made a false declaration and is transporting prohibited goods.”
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