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Operating context - 2023-24 Departmental Plan

The OPC’s strategic and operating environment is constantly evolving, given the exponential speed of technological change, the array of new business models and different means of collecting and manipulating data. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an acceleration of an already fast-moving digital revolution, as technologies were heavily relied upon to ensure that we could continue performing essential and routine activities remotely and safely.

The rapid advancements we are seeing in technology are exciting. They offer tremendous potential for innovation and for improving the lives of Canadians. However, finding the right ways of protecting and promoting our fundamental right to privacy while harnessing these new technological opportunities will be a key challenge for Canada’s institutions in the coming years.

In June 2022, our office welcomed the introduction of Bill C-27,Footnote 1 the Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022, which replaced an earlier attempt at private-sector privacy law reform, the former Bill C-11, that died on the order paper when the last federal election was called. The introduction of Bill C-27 marks an important step toward a new privacy law for the private sector. It is certainly an exciting pivotal time for privacy in Canada and for our office.

Internally, the coming year will be one of transition for the OPC. Our office will make a full transition to hybrid work, complete the implementation and leverage new information management tools and prepare for the potential new responsibilities we expect as a result of law reform. The OPC’s ability to effectively prepare for and implement newly mandated obligations is contingent upon obtaining timely and adequate resources. In the meantime, we will have to reconcile providing services under existing laws with planning for the implementation of our potential new responsibilities within a context of financial constraints.

As a small organization, this reconciliation will be challenging for us, especially since we are already facing a number of internal operational pressures. The most pressing relate to the lapsing of temporary funding that we received in 2019 to help us reduce a backlog of privacy complaints older than 12 months, pending privacy law reform. In the absence of these additional resources, that backlog is once again growing. Moreover, we are limited in our ability to review privacy breach reports as thoroughly and quickly as we would otherwise like to do, as this remains largely an unfunded activity. Presently, we have the capacity to thoroughly review only 5% of the high-risk breaches reported to our office. Important litigation files currently underway before the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal, and the growing volume of unfunded legal and policy obligations requiring concrete actions are also contributing to our resource challenges and are adding to the complexity of our work.

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