Demystifying privacy legislation in Canada

By: Kelly VanBuskirk

In 2014, a company called Phoenix Strategic Perspectives Inc. conducted a survey for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, to determine how Canadians feel about privacy protections here in Canada.

The survey found that the majority of Canadians are concerned about the privacy of their personal information, but also feel they have little knowledge on the subject.

Why does this matter?

Well, we’re shedding personal information all the time.

Personal information is collected every time you:
– file a tax return
– apply for government benefits
– use your credit card
– search the web
– call the police
– have a prescription filled
– and more!

So it’s important to know the rules relating to how that information is collected and stored, who can access it, and under what circumstances it can be accessed.

The rules are gathered up into four pieces of legislation.

First off, there is the Privacy Act. This is federal legislation that sets the ground rules for the protection of personal information held by a federal government institution – including departments, agencies and Crown corporations.

Second, there is the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). This is federal legislation that applies to the protection of personal information held by private sector organizations and federally-regulated businesses like telecommunications companies, airports, banks, railways, radio stations, etc.

Third, there is the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This is New Brunswick provincial legislation that applies to all records controlled by a provincial public body such as a government department, agency or Crown corporation.

Fourth, there is the Personal Health Information Privacy and Access Act. This is New Brunswick provincial legislation that applies to all health-related records controlled by a public body, a regional health authority, WorkSafe New Brunswick, nursing homes, pharmacies, etc.

Each of these documents applies to specific types of information, and specific types organizations holding the information. They describe the parameters under which the personal information is collected and stored, and how individuals are able to access their information and for what purpose.

Privacy requests can be made on your behalf by your lawyer to help them represent you in many different areas of law, including personal injury, employment, administrative, corporate and criminal.

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