Canada Privacy Data Breaches Privacy Deficit

Open letter calls on federal parties to accept BC privacy ruling, amend federal law

Nearly 40 experts urge federal parties to end their privacy law impunity

June 10, 2024 — Today 39 legal experts and civil society groups released an open letter to Justin Trudeau, Pierre Poilievre, and Jagmeet Singh, urging them to not appeal a May 14th BC court decision that says provincial privacy law applies to their parties. Signatories instead ask the party leaders to work together to amend Canada’s federal laws so all Canadians have similar privacy protections to British Columbians. 

As political parties are neither public institutions, subject to Canada’s Privacy Act, nor private sector organizations, subject to the Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), they are largely exempt from privacy law at the federal level. In August 2022 BC’s privacy commissioner determined that political parties were not exempt from BC privacy law, and must seek consent for how they collect, use, and disclose the personal information of British Columbians, as public and private organizations are required to do. Rather than respect this decision, the federal Liberal, NDP and Conservative parties jointly filed suit against this decision. On May 14th 2024, their case was dismissed; they are expected to decide whether to appeal that decision this week.

“Our leaders know what’s right: giving every Canadian the same basic privacy protections from federal parties misusing our data that British Columbians now enjoy,” said OpenMedia Executive Director Matt Hatfield. “Instead, they’ve wasted both taxpayer and party donor money in a shameful effort to strip British Columbians of those fundamental rights.”

“It’s time for federal parties to rethink what they’re doing,” continued Hatfield. “We hope that party leaders will take stock of how universally unpopular exempting political parties from basic privacy law is, with both experts and Canadians. They can still do the right thing here.”

A broad consensus of authorities have called for political parties to be brought under federal privacy law, including the Chief Electoral Officer, federal, provincial, and territorial Information and Privacy Commissioners, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, and the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee. An overwhelming 96% of Canadians in an Elections Canada survey say they believe laws should regulate how political parties collect and use our data.

OpenMedia has documented the failure of privacy law to cover federal parties and its consequences for years, and recently released a review of how their privacy policies fail to meet reasonable standards for privacy protection.

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