Monday, August 18, 2008

CBA urges Government to reform Privacy Act

I am currently in Quebec City attending the Canadian Bar Association's annual Canadian Legal Conference. On behalf of the CBA's National Privacy and Access Law Section, I had the honour of presenting a resolution to the National Council calling for reforms to the Privacy Act. The resolution passed with one contrary vote (I wanted to speak with the fellow who voted against it, but didn't get the chance and then lost him in the crowd). This is the third time the CBA has formally called upon the government to look at the antiquated 1982 Act. The Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, is here and spoke to the Council on the following day. Her office has issued the following press release about the resolution:
News Release: Commissioner welcomes legal community’s call for privacy law reform (August 18, 2008) - Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Commissioner welcomes legal community’s call for privacy law reform

Quebec City, August 18, 2008 — A Canadian Bar Association (CBA) resolution once again highlights the urgent need for reform of Canada’s federal public sector privacy legislation, says the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart.

“With this resolution, lawyers from across the country are urging the government to strengthen privacy protection for Canadians. Canada’s federal sector privacy legislation, the Privacy Act, is unbelievably inadequate,” says Commissioner Stoddart. “I hope the federal government will heed the CBA’s call for modernization of the Act. This is the latest in a string of appeals from privacy experts about the need to update legislation which has been far outpaced by technological and societal changes.”

The CBA, which is holding its 2008 Legal Conference in Quebec City, passed the resolution calling for comprehensive revision of the Privacy Act on the weekend.

In particular, it proposes changes to the legislation to ensure that:

  • Federal government departments only collect personal information when demonstrably necessary for clear and articulated state goals;
  • Once collected, personal information is rigorously protected with stringent safeguards and accountability requirements, including a breach notification requirement; and
  • Personal information is not shared within or beyond Canada’s borders unless those safeguards and requirements can be guaranteed.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) has long been advocating for reform of the Privacy Act, which is a quarter-century old and has never been substantially updated.

Last spring, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics began a study of the Privacy Act and possible amendments. The OPC reform proposals to the committee are posted at The OPC looks forward to the Committee’s recommendations.The CBA resolution is available at The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as an ombudsman, advocate and guardian of privacy and the protection of personal information rights of Canadians.

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