Privacy reform in Canada has lagged at the federal level with the efforts to update PIPEDA seemingly going nowhere, but multiple provinces have moved ahead with amending their own laws. Quebec leads the way as late last month it quietly passed Bill 64, a major privacy reform package that reflects – and even goes beyond – many emerging international privacy law standards. Chantal Bernier, the former interim privacy commissioner of Canada, now leads the Dentons law firm’s Canadian Privacy and Cybersecurity practice group. She joins the Law Bytes podcast to talk about Bill 64, including its origins, key provisions, and implications for privacy law in Canada.
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The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 103: Privacy Reform Comes to Canada – Chantal Bernier on the Passage of Quebec’s Bill 64
As the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage continues its study on Bill C-10, it has also received some notable submissions from organizations and experts that raise further questions about the wisdom of the bill. One submission not yet posted (but provided to me with the consent to post) comes from Philip Palmer, former Senior General Counsel with the Department of Justice focused on communications law. Palmer spent decades in government focused on telecommunications and competition law issues. His expert opinion is that Bill C-10 is unconstitutional since on-demand streaming services such as Netflix are not inter-provincial undertakings and therefore are not subject to the federal government’s jurisdiction over broadcasters.
The state of Canadian privacy law has been ongoing source of concern with many experts concluding that the law is outdated and no longer fit for purpose. This is particularly true when contrasted with rules in the European Union that feature tough penalties and new privacy rights. It would appear that the province of Quebec has concluded that the waiting has gone on long enough. The provincial government recently introduced Bill 64, which if adopted would overhaul provincial privacy laws and provide a potential model for both the federal government and the other provinces.
Eloïse Gratton is a partner at the law firm of Borden Ladner Gervais in Montreal and recognized as one of Canada’s leading privacy law practitioners. She joins the podcast to break down Bill 64 and its implications for privacy enforcement, accountability and new privacy rights.
The Quebec Superior Court has ruled that the provincial rules creating a mandated ISP blocking system for unlicensed online gambling sites is unconstitutional. The provincial government introduced the rules in 2015, which create a list of unlicensed sites that ISPs must block or face financial penalties. While the government tried to frame the blocking system as a health and safety measure, it was always obvious from its own documentation that the plan was primarily focused on increasing revenues of Loto-Quebec, a provincially licensed online gambling site.
Government officials and cultural groups in Quebec have been banging the drum for much of the past year for the imposition of digital sales taxes on services such as Netflix. The debate is often framed around the notion that Netflix and other Internet companies should be collecting sales tax like any other service provider. Supporters argue that other countries have begun to levy sales taxes on digital services and Canada should do the same.
My Globe and Mail op-ed notes the federal government has sent mixed signals to date, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejecting new taxes on the grounds that Canadians “pay enough for the Internet”, Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly seemingly keeping the door open to new taxes, and Finance Minister Bill Morneau committing to studying the issue while international standards develop.