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2018-19 Departmental Plan

Raison d’être, mandate and role: who we are and what we do

Raison d’être

As an Agent of Parliament, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada reports directly to the House of Commons and the Senate. The mandate of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) is to oversee compliance with both the Privacy Act, which covers the personal information-handling practices of federal government institutions, and PIPEDA, Canada’s federal private sector privacy law, along with some aspects of Canada’s anti-spam law (CASL). The OPC’s mission is to protect and promote the privacy rights of individuals.Footnote 1

Mandate and role

The Privacy Commissioner’s powers to further the privacy rights of Canadians include:

  • investigating complaints, conducting audits and pursuing court action under the Privacy Act and PIPEDA;
  • publicly reporting on the personal information-handling practices of public and private sector organizations;
  • supporting, undertaking and publishing research into privacy issues; and
  • promoting public awareness and understanding of privacy issues, including appearing before Parliament on proposed legislation and studies on issues affecting the privacy rights of Canadians.

The Commissioner works independently of government to investigate federal public sector-related complaints from individuals under the Privacy Act and complaints related to the private sector under PIPEDA. He also has some designated responsibilities to ensure compliance with CASL.

The Commissioner may address complaints through mediation and conciliation; he also has the power to summon witnesses, administer oaths, and compel the production of evidence. In cases where the investigation does not result in a voluntary agreement/resolution and remains unresolved, the Commissioner may seek an order from the Federal Court to address the situation under certain circumstances.

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