Welcome to the United States of Canada

This week (on Canada Day, July 1, 2014) Canada's new CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Laws) went into effect.  There will be a 3-year transition period, before full enforcement goes into effect, but the gist of the situation is that (according to everything I have read), Canadian citizens will be allowed to sue any emails sent from 'unopted' sources (i.e. sources to whom or from which they haven't given explicit permission to send email).  

The fines are staggering: $1 million per offense for an individual, and $10 million per offense for a corporation.  Officers in corporations may be held liable, as well.  Even non-profit companies are not exempt from the new radically harsh CASL laws.  In fact, everything I have read is that US citizens and corporations are mandated (by Canadian law) to obey the CASL regulations.

Essentially, this means that unlike the US system where it is completely legal for a marketer to email someone they haven't previously contacted about a product, service, charitable cause, job opportunity, etc., in 2017 it will no longer be allowed at all.  If violations occur, a U.S. corporation that is found guilty can be fined as much as $10 million per day.

On the other hand, our Canuck brethren/cousins have made it clear that there is no reciprocity.  In other words, if a US citizen is sent hundreds of spam messages per day by a Canadian, they will have no recourse to remedy under the CASL laws.

The Canadian government has stated that, for the 3 year transition period, full fines will not be enacted.  However, that doesn't mean they will be extremely lenient, either.  Remember that Canada, unlike many other nations, has trade agreements with the USA that can be enforced in court, if a US court with jurisdiction upholds the verdict.

This means that even if a Recruiter (whose emails I do not consider 'spam', typically, and certainly do not conform to the examples of 'spam' provided by the Canadian government) who contacts someone on LinkedIn about a job opportunity, only to find out that the person has moved to Canada, can still be penalized for violations.

There is no "I didn't know" defense permitted by this law.  There is no "implied consent".  This law means that any recruiting email accidentally sent to Canada can be penalized by a $1 million fine.

As a Capitalist, and free-thinker, I am a bit appalled by the harshness of these laws, which are clearly only a one-way street which will not benefit any Americans at all.  As a direct descendant of 12 or more of the original pilgrims who came across the Atlantic Ocean in a small boat called "The Mayflower", ostensibly to seek freedom, I am concerned. The idea that the Sovereignty of the United States is somehow supervened and subjugated by these new laws from Canada is anathema to me.  Nonetheless, I will try to obey them. 

Still,  these laws are not American laws.  The idea that Americans have to obey them is disturbing.  Chinese law, for example, permits executions for sending spam, and harvesting of the guilty party's organs.  Yet, no sane person would consider for a second allowing the Chinese government to attempt to enforce their versions of the law in the USA.

So how is a $1 million fine any different?  It is obviously unconstitutional and directly violates the principle of American sovereignty.  Nonetheless, this is an important new wrinkle in the war against spam.  Spam is a problem, and a large waste of human time. Will the laws be enforceable, though?  

I have my doubts, considering the extreme disparity between U.S. and Canadian law, and the fact that only Canadians can claim to be victims.  It will be interesting to see how this situation is resolved.  Meanwhile, I'm eliminating all Canadian emails from my database, unless they specifically request to be kept in the loop.  No one wants to be the "Test Case", obviously.  Conformance to these laws will certainly dampen the economy, and restrict job changing, and also deprive Canadian citizens about information about new products, services, etc.  I can't foresee any benefit from these new laws, and think that they do have the potential to be extremely damaging to American corporations.

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