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Statement from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada Regarding a Report by Elections Canada

March 27, 2013

Following the tabling of a report by Elections Canada today, the Assistant Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Chantal Bernier, issued the following statement:

We welcome the report from Elections Canada, which highlights the fact that there is currently a gap in coverage under federal privacy legislation and suggests measures to address this gap. We feel this is an issue that warrants public discussion.

Elections Canada consulted our Office on a draft report and we indicated we were supportive of their findings and recommendations. We have just received a copy of the final report and look forward to studying it in detail.

Our Office does not have jurisdiction over political parties and members of Parliament are not covered by privacy legislation.

The Elections Canada report recommends that the fair information principles contained in the Canadian Standards Association Model Code for the Protection of Personal Information apply to political parties.  These principles are internationally recognized as best practices for handling personal information.  We are pleased to see a recommendation that political parties should be required to meet these standards.

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has a responsibility to ensure compliance with federal privacy legislation, and also to play a role in informing Canadians and Parliamentarians about inherent privacy issues. Over the years, Parliamentarians, journalists and members of the public have raised a number of questions about the privacy practices of political parties.  At times, our Office has been asked to offer comments or guidance in this area. 

Our Office has highlighted the gap in coverage under federal privacy legislation in the past.  We commissioned an external research paper to examine this issue. We published it on our website last year in the hope that it would help inform public discussion regarding issues relating to the protection of personal information by political parties.

Ultimately, however, it is up to Parliamentarians to determine how these issues could be best addressed moving forward.

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