What comes first – privacy or solving crime? Hamilton council debates tonight

Hamilton city council will decide tonight whether to take advice from Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner around where private security cameras can point.

Last week, a city council committee voted to look at Hamilton's CCTV bylaw.

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Right now, it's illegal for private residents and businesses to point their security cameras at public property, including the street. A bylaw revamp would change that.

Brian Beamish, Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner, warned against that in a letter this week.

The change would pose "a significant privacy issue," Beamish wrote.

Surveillance cameras have to comply with the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Beamish said.

"In my view, any attempt by the city to permit or encourage the use of private video surveillance cameras, for the purpose of collecting personal information to aid in law enforcement, would undermine privacy rights under MFIPPA," he said.

Sam Merulla, Ward 4 councillor, said people already film on the street anyway.

Filming someone's backyard would violate their privacy, he said. But they can already be filmed on the street, and a bylaw change would help police solve crimes.

Here's what else is happening at city council Wednesday:

  • Another Merulla motion, this time to look into mandating that all drive thru have the appropriate number of garbage containers.
  • Approving hundreds of thousands in grants from the Future Fund, including $250,000 for as-yet-unspecified work for the Westdale Cinema Group, $196,000 for accessibility upgrades at Theatre Aquarius, $102,000 for kitchen equipment for City Kidz, and $93,000 for ride scheduling software for the Cancer Assistance program.
  • Asking the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation to look at properties on Hamilton Port Authority land to make sure there are no buildings or structures that add to the land's tax assessment. In short, councillors want to make sure the properties are paying enough in taxes.

CBC Hamilton reporter Samantha Craggs will tweet live from the meeting. Follow her tweets in the window above, or at @SamCraggsCBC.

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