• Home
  • Current congress
  • Public Website
  • My papers
  • root
  • browse
  • IAC-07
  • E6
  • 4
  • paper
  • Regulating Remote Sensing Space Systems in Canada – New Legislation for a New Era

    Paper number



    Dr. Thomas Gillon, Government of Canada, Canada



    On 23 November 2004, then Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pierre Pettigrew, announced the introduction of legislation in the Canadian House of Commons to regulate the operation of remote sensing space systems.  In the press release announcing the legislation, it states that, “The legislation is aimed at protecting Canada’s national security, national defence and foreign policy interests, while supporting our continued leadership in the provision of remote sensing data and services to government and private sector clients.”   The Act received Royal Assent and became law in November 2005.  The legislation, and the regulatory regime that it creates, places Canada at the forefront of establishing guidelines for the operation of remote sensing space systems and the dissemination of data and imagery generated by these systems.  
    While it is recognized that the US legislative/regulatory regime is the standard by which other such mechanisms will be assessed, the Canadian remote sensing regulatory system is uniquely Canadian.  This paper will present a broad overview of the emerging Canadian regime, and will comment, where possible, on the rationale behind various elements contained within the regime.
    It has been observed that,, “One of the new millennium’s defining features is rapidly growing global transparency.”   Such transparency brings with it a requirement for responsible action and effective regulation.  Responsibility where the Government of Canada is concerned cuts two ways.  On the one hand the Government has a responsibility to ensure, to the greatest extent possible and practicable, that data and imagery generated by Canadian remote sensing space systems is handled in a manner conducive to the maintenance of Canada’s security, defence and foreign policy interests all the while balancing these concerns with the requirement to support a competitive industry.  On the other hand, the Government has a responsibility to ensure that it does not itself use such imagery in inappropriate ways that would impact on the privacy rights of Canadians.
    The Remote Sensing Space Systems Act represents a lengthy effort to achieve this balance.  There is no doubt that the Act is timely.  Satellite technologies are new and advancing rapidly and the Government, through the Act, is working to establish a framework for addressing the issues raised by these new technologies sooner rather than later. The Act, should serve Canadians well into the future.  While it has been developed in response to the needs of Radarsat 2, it has been prepared with an eye to the systems of tomorrow and will, it is hoped, secure Canadians for some time to come.  
    Abstract document