Canada’s Top Court Tips Hand on Privacy

My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) focuses on the recent Supreme Court of Canada Heinz decision which sheds light into how Canada' s top court regards the importance of privacy.  I argue that the decision can be read as an indirect endorsement of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's longstanding call for changes to the Privacy Act, which applies to the protection of personal information held by government institutions.  Privacy advocates have regularly criticized the statute, dismayed that the government is seemingly unwilling to hold itself to the same standard of privacy protection that it demands of the private sector.

Moreover, when Canada's private sector privacy law is reviewed later this year, the court's acknowledgement of a "lack of teeth" associated with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is certain to emerge as a major focal point.  Canadians who presently launch complaints against either the government or private sector companies under the current privacy law framework are frequently disappointed to learn that the Commissioner is unable to do anything more than issue a non-binding finding. 

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