I was so happy to see a great number of you online for Commissioner Daniel Therrien’s annual address, which he delivered to the IAPP Canada Symposium this week. However, not all 26,000+ subscribers to this digest were there, so I’ll give you a little recap.
First, it was a pleasure to have my former boss Jennifer Stoddart, Canada’s commissioner from 2003 to 2013, introduce Therrien. She noted he has served his full seven-year term with great distinction and, among other things, he:
- Tirelessly championed privacy law reform, with repeated calls for a human rights approach.
- Rigorously enforced the federal law whenever necessary.
- Brought major files before the courts that will result in landmark decisions for privacy law.
- Raised issues with Parliament resulting in key privacy changes, for example, in national security.
I think there is no question Therrien always thoughtfully, firmly and consistently put forward positions and arguments he felt would be the most privacy-protective for Canadian citizens.
Building on that very approach, I can tell you Therrien’s keynote was decidedly not a retrospective of his mandate. He used the IAPP platform for another big push on law reform and to counter some critiques. I think you should take the time to watch it for yourself (it’s available here) but here a few highlights. Therrien argued:
- There’s a way to build human rights into Bill C-11 that doesn’t run afoul of its origins in trade and commerce by including a preamble and purpose clause. This foundation would help strike a balance between rights and commercial interests when interpreting the law.
- A rights-based law using this approach and maintaining privacy principles would be less prescriptive than other approaches and more flexible and adaptable to changes in technology and the digital economy.
- The direction the federal public sector privacy law reforms are headed in is far better in his view, and there needs to be a better congruence between the public and private sector laws, especially given public-private partnerships.
- The number of things for which penalties could be levied in C-11 is simply too narrow, and AMPs in key areas such as consent are necessary.
- With finite resources, the OPC needs the power of discretion so they can choose the best way to apply their energies to the advantage of Canadians.
- If SMEs in other countries can innovate and flourish under similar conditions, why not in Canada?
He pointed out the extreme unlikelihood C-11 will pass before Parliament rises but suggested perhaps it’s best to give the government more time to reflect on these questions and have meaningful discussions on the subject.
I don’t know about you, but I saw a ton of stuff this week on social media about the GDPR’s birthday. It made me realize we missed PIPEDA’s birthday. The law came into force Jan. 1, 2001, but was enacted April 13, 2000, meaning it’s over 21 and it could legally order a beer in the U.S. if it wanted to. Folks, private sector privacy law in Canada is growing up, and it is trying to figure out who it’s going to be.
So, what do you think? Are you convinced after hearing the commissioner articulate his views on things? Are you happy we’ll have good ol' PIPEDA around for a while longer? Are privacy commissioners in their roles supposed to be ombudspersons mediating between individual and organizational interests or are they intended to be privacy champions and advocates for our country’s citizens, leaving the balancing to Parliament and the courts?
Lots to think about, digest and debate — that’s for sure. No one ever said privacy was boring! I guess that’s why we’re a profession that’s at least 70,000 strong worldwide if you look at IAPP membership numbers.
I hope you continue to enjoy all the great content the IAPP brings to you in its online programming and through the IAPP Canada Symposium we’ve built to ensure you have access to ongoing professional development and networking throughout the pandemic. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to pull together, but that doesn’t mean I am not chomping at the bit to see you all in person next May in Toronto. Soon enough!
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