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Bill C-20, An Act respecting the commercialization of the Air Navigation System

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Speaking Points of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to The Transportation Committee


April 26, 1996
Ottawa, Ontario

Bruce Phillips

Privacy Commissioner of Canada
(Check against Delivery)


  • Want to talk about a largely unforseen and unintended consequence of privatization;
  • Raised the issue with officials last year with little effect;
  • Privatization threatens to erase 17 years of existing privacy rights;
  • NAV CANADA just one of 17 agencies being commercialized (airports and harbours among others) given government trends, could just be the beginning;
  • * Rush to efficiency and savings should not weaken those legal rights Canadians already enjoy, one of which is privacy protection.


  • Privacy is the legal right to retain control over government collection, use and disclosure of our personal data;
  • Privacy law is the legal means of righting balance of information power which computers have tipped in favour of the information gatherers;
  • Virtually all sophisticated information nations have stringent privacy law quid pro quo of electronic data processing;
  • More than that, privacy is the value at the heart of liberty in a modern state and the primary value served by section 8 of the Charter (Supreme Court);
  • Current Privacy Act gives clients and employees of federal agencies (like Transport Canada) the right to examine personal records, correct errors and annotate disputed information;
  • Holds Air Nav to the fair information code, imposes legal controls on its collection, use, retention, disclosure and disposal of personal information;
  • Makes information practices open and accountable and subject to independent oversight by Parliamentary officer;
  • Privacy a rising concern and central importance to Canadians. 87% consider privacy protection should be a priority for government (PIAC survey)


  • Maintain existing privacy protection at NAV CANADA as done with official languages rights, amend section 96 of Bill C-20 to include the words "The Privacy Act applies to the corporation as if it were a federal institution", and add organization to the schedule to the Privacy Act;
  • At a minimum, imbed access rights and the fair information code in the enabling legislation.
  • Protection could continue at virtually no added costs since proper systems are already in place;
  • Maintaining privacy protection would enhance clients' and employees' confidence in NAV CANADA;


  • Not the time to walk away from this obligation, Canadians need more protection not less;
  • Opportunity to show the way, commit to the principle and establish the standard in the private sector;
  • Prepare privatized agencies for what must come and come soon, national privacy standards in all private sector;
  • Quebec government takes the position that any business being conducted in that province is subject to the provincial legislation. If the Courts support that view then the federal government will be party to imposing unequal treatment on NAV CANADA's clients and employees.
  • No competitive disadvantage, not-for-profit monopoly.


Employees will be asked to consent to transfer of their records to NAV CANADA.

  1. Will all files (EAP, grievance, harassment) be transferred? Will this put employees at a disadvantage with new management?
  2. Will Transport advise that there are no comparable legal protection in place?
  3. Given fear for their jobs, is this informed consent or coercion?
  4. Can individuals consent to giving away privacy rights?
  5. Note: Existing collective agreements (which remain in effect until normal expiry dates) do not deal with privacy rights because legal protection already in.
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