In my hometown of Ottawa, COVID-19 cases are on a dramatic and nerve-racking rise. It is causing a fair amount of anxiety in the city. Most people figure it’s just a matter of time before schools close and we return to homeschooling, with restaurants locking up and gyms shutting their doors again.
I really hope it doesn’t result in a large-scale shutdown again, but it seems like the pandemic is all people are thinking about these days.
Case in point is the message delivered by the Trudeau government in the Speech from the Throne on Wednesday. There was very little of substance in those messages beyond the fact that the government seems pretty focused on dealing with the pandemic — and maybe only the pandemic. Oh, and regulating the internet ... that little thing.
This all has me concerned as a privacy professional hoping our laws get the political attention they sorely need. Might the federal government put all its plans to modernize our privacy laws on hold while it deals with COVID-19 almost exclusively? I hope not, but I’m also not going to hold my breath.
At least it seems like the privacy agenda will be advanced in a few provinces over the next few months. Of course, there’s the aggressive proposal put forward by Quebec, and the consultations in Ontario are quickly nearing their end for private sector privacy law.
Around the world, politicians have shown they can walk and chew gum at the same time. They’ve been able to juggle privacy advancements all the while dealing with pandemic-related issues. Brazil has a new law, Washington state has introduced some ideas and even the American federal politicians have begun debating a national privacy law.
So, if the provinces can advance the needle, and if other jurisdictions can do it as well, let’s hope the Trudeau government will continue down the path of the mandate letters it sent out to its ministers way back prior to lockdown. After all, it may be a new Parliament, but it’s not a new government. Now is not the time to let the rot of stale privacy laws linger. Some political juggling is a must. As the Throne Speech suggested, the situation has revealed certain cracks in our society. I would argue those cracks are showing — big time — in the laws in place to protect people. This government said it wants to leverage this opportunity to come back better. There are many things to improve — I get it. But modern laws are part of the equation. They should be included in this notion of “better.”
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