The Federal Privacy Commissioner of Canada released his annual report yesterday. He took the occasion to land a few punches on the issue of privacy law reform in Canada. Now, to be clear, I haven’t gone back to check every single instance of each annual report, but I think it’s safe to say that every annual report for about the last 12 to 15 years has also been used as a launchpad for the commissioner to urge government action.
Maybe this time will be different. When you read the words Daniel Therrien chose to use, you can’t help but feel that he is frustrated by the government’s response to date. He says things like, “Progress from government has been slow to nonexistent,” and, “Canadians cannot afford to wait several years until known deficiencies in privacy laws are fixed.” In several spots, he highlights government’s slow and weak response to his, and Parliament’s, calls for reform.
The commissioner’s message may be old news in some respects, but his voice on this seems to be getting louder. And, in fact, it may have widespread support among people you might not have considered at first blush. For example, the Business Council of Canada released a report earlier this week stating that privacy protection was a necessary principle in order to build a “responsible and innovative data economy.” The Business Council of Canada is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization comprising the chief executives of Canada’s leading enterprises, representing companies from every region and sector of the economy.
In my University of Ottawa Law School class this week, we wrapped up our discussion about the Privacy Act. During our discussions, the students were quick to understand some of the deficiencies in that law. One student raised a good question: Why has no federal government, in all this time, taken the opportunity to fix those parts that are broken considering we are so entrenched in the new digital world?
I didn’t have a good answer, and I suspect Commissioner Therrien is hoping that question isn’t asked yet again next year. Have a great weekend.
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