Home / Supreme Court of Canada to hear case concerning free expression at a picket line

Supreme Court of Canada to hear case concerning free expression at a picket line

Ottawa – The Supreme Court of Canada will be hearing arguments on June 11, 2013 in Information and Privacy Commissioner, et al. v. United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401, et al.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union, Local 401, represent the workers at the Palace Casino in Edmonton. During 2006, the union went on strike to protest working conditions. The union formed a picket line. The union posted a sign stating that the union might videotape individuals who crossed the picket line and post those images on a website.

Several individuals who the union recorded crossing the picket line filed complaints with the Alberta Privacy Commissioner. The Commissioner decided that the union did not have the right to make or use the video because it was a violation of the individuals’ right to privacy. The Court of Appeal of Alberta determined that by restricting the union members’ ability to use the video, the privacy legislation at issue infringed the union members’ right to free expression.

The BCCLA is an intervener in the case. We argue that the Supreme Court of Canada must balance the right to privacy against the freedom of expression very carefully in the context of a labour dispute. A labour dispute, at its core, involves free expression and expressive actions. Freedom of expression includes the right to communicate one’s ideas and opinions, and is one of the most fundamental freedoms.

Picketing is the key way a union communicates about a labour dispute. Videotaping a picket line is a way for union members to express their views freely. It informs workers and the public about a strike. The BCCLA will argue that the expressive act of videotaping at a picket line must be protected, and that an absolute ban on unions videotaping at a picket line is unjustified. The BCCLA will also argue that Alberta’s privacy legislation fails to strike an appropriate balance between the protection of privacy and the freedom of expression.

The BCCLA is represented by Lindsay Lyster and Jessica Derynck of Moore Edgar Lyster.

The BCCLA’s argument in the case is available here.

 What: Supreme Court of Canada will hear oral arguments in Information and Privacy Commissioner, et al. v. UFCW, Local 401, et al.
 When: Oral arguments before the court begin on Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at 6:30 am PT / 9:30 am ET
 Where: Supreme Court of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario)
 Who: Representative from the BCCLA available for comment


Media Contacts

Jessica Derynck, Lawyer for the BCCLA: 604-689-4457 (office) or 778-887-3926 (cell)