The B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) fear that the federal government is abandoning its previously strong commitment to protecting Canadians’ privacy. Bill C-54, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, is languishing in the legislative process, awaiting third reading in the House of Commons before debate in the Senate.
The privacy legislation would require companies and private organizations to obtain the consent of Canadians before collecting, using or disclosing their personal information. It is an integral part of the Liberal government’s platform to promote Canada as a leader in electronic commerce.
Murray Mollard, Policy Director for the BCCLA, is frustrated by the delay in passing Bill C-54:
“The Liberals are feeling the heat from groups that don’t like this bill. Further delays will doom the legislation. We trusted the sincerity of the Liberal government’s promise to protect Canadians’ privacy. Passing Bill C-54 before Parliament breaks for the summer would back up its words with concrete action.”
According to Darrell Evans, Executive Director of FIPA, Bill C-54 is crucial because it gives individuals rights needed to deal with new threats posed by information technology: “None of us feels that Bill C-54 is perfect, but it is a huge leap forward for privacy protection. People are increasingly aware that the use of their sensitive personal information is out of control. This brings mounting dangers from such things as identity theft, abuse of medical information, and access to children’s information on the Internet. It would be a crime if self-serving opposition from business groups creates delay and kills the bill.”
Bill C-54 would require any private corporation or organization engaged in commercial activities to follow fair information practices. At first it would apply only to federally regulated businesses, but after three years would include provincially regulated industry. The law would also protect employees’ personal information—a crucial part of the bill since many companies routinely invade their employees’ privacy.
Many business interests support Bill C-54. For example, the Canadian Marketing Association, the Information Technology Association of Canada, and the banking industry have all publicly championed the proposed law. In fact, the Bill is based on the Canadian Standards Association Model Privacy Code which was agreed to by a wide range of industry and consumer interests.
The BCCLA and FIPA are part of a larger coalition of groups supporting Bill C-54, including the Canadian Health Coalition, Electronic Frontier Canada, the Human Rights Research and Education Centre, and the Ottawa based Public Interest Advocacy Centre.