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Appearance before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (ETHI) on the certificate of nomination of Daniel Therrien to the position of Privacy Commissioner

June 21, 2021
Ottawa, Ontario

Opening statement by Daniel Therrien
Privacy Commissioner of Canada

(Note: This text was adapted from the transcript of the committee meeting. Check against delivery)

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for having me today….

First, I would like to say that I am honoured that parliamentarians have placed their trust in me and that they have renewed my mandate for the coming year. I will try to be worthy of that trust.

This year will be an important year of transition for privacy law in Canada and for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. I intend, during the next year, to continue to comment on legislative proposals that are being made, or may be made, both in private sector privacy law and possibly in public sector privacy law. Indeed, there was a consultation paper published by the Department of Justice in the fall of 2020 that outlined a good plan to reform the public sector Privacy Act. Therefore, first and foremost, I intend in the next year to continue to provide comment and advice to parliamentarians on the legislative proposals.

In addition, although we don't yet have, of course, the precise content of these laws that will eventually be enforced in the private and public sector, we were starting to have a good idea of some of the new roles that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner might have under reformed laws. Although this is early days, what I intend to do in the next year, given the fact that I know the Office of the Privacy Commissioner a little bit, is to prepare the office to inherit these new responsibilities. By that, I mean the order-making authority that is found in Bill C-11 and that is also mentioned in the justice department's consultation paper for the Privacy Act.

What does that mean in terms of structure and the OPC? How separate should adjudicators be from investigators? I ask this because we currently do not have adjudicators. What should be the profile and competency profile of adjudicators once we inherit these responsibilities, if we do?

I'll mention one other element in terms of organizational structure. Bill C-11 speaks to a greater role for the OPC in engaging with stakeholders. We have already in the past engaged with stakeholders on many policy documents. I'm thinking of the consent guidelines that we published a few years ago. I'm thinking of the proposals we made for artificial intelligence more recently. We're not foreign to the idea of consulting stakeholders before publishing important documents, but Bill C-11 certainly sends the signal that there should be more of that, and we welcome that. We want to give some thought in the next year to how we will proceed to engage with stakeholders once new legislation is enforced.

Beyond legislative reform, I'll mention very briefly, as you know, that we published a special report a week or two ago on the issue of facial recognition, which includes draft guidance for the police. We intend to engage with the police, and also civil society and other stakeholders, on that document. In the next year, we hope to be able to finalize it jointly with our provincial colleagues, because this is obviously a very important privacy issue.

Let me stop here. I will try to answer your questions.

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