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Letter to committee members


August 27, 2020

*Letter was sent to each the following committee members:


Sherry Romanado, MP
The Hon. Michelle Rempel Garner, MP
Sébastien Lemire, MP
Earl Dreeshen, MP
Ali Ehsassi, MP
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, MP
Tracy Gray, MP
Helena Jaczek, MP
Majid Jowhari, MP
Emmanuella Lambropoulos, MP
Brian Masse, MP
Jeremy Patzer, MP


Rachael Harder, MP
Brenda Shanahan, MP
Marie-Hélène Gaudreau, MP
Charlie Angus, MP
Michael Barrett, MP
Élisabeth Brière, MP
Han Dong, MP
Greg Fergus, MP
Jacques Gourde, MP
Damien C. Kurek, MP
Michael Levitt, MP

Elizabeth May, MP


House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario 

Dear NAME:

Following my appearance at INDU on May 29, 2020, three shadow ministers of the Official Opposition wrote me to inquire about the privacy implications of the Government of Canada’s Covid Alert application and the adequacy of current privacy laws in safeguarding the personal information of Canadians with respect to this application.

I write now to share my response with members of INDU and ETHI, and the Leader of the Green Party who is not represented on these committees, in case this may assist parliamentarians from all parties to reflect on the state of federal privacy laws as they pertain to measures the public and private sectors may adopt to address the effects of the current pandemic.

In my response, I make the point that the Covid-inspired acceleration of the digital revolution makes legislative reform more urgent than ever. New technologies have brought significant benefits to Canadians in this pandemic period, and they will undoubtedly be a major factor in the social and economic recovery to come, but they also create important risks to privacy.  What we need, more urgently than ever,  are laws that allow technologies to produce these benefits in the public interest while ensuring that fundamental rights such as privacy will be protected.

To illustrate how other countries have legislated in recent years to ensure their privacy laws reflect modern technological realities, I attach a chart which shows that several of Canada’s trading partners from all over the world have adopted measures I have recommended in the past, notably in my most recent annual report to Parliament.Footnote 1 These recommendations were also put forward by provincial and territorial privacy commissioners over the years, and recently we have seen provincial governments introduce bills or announce an intention to modernize their laws.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with you in due course.


(Original signed by)

Daniel Therrien

Letter of August 20, 2020
Comparative table

International Developments in Privacy Protection
Year privacy law last updated 2018 2018 2012 2012 2018 2015 2018 2018 2016 2019 2015
Defining privacy as a human right Yes Yes Yes No Yes No Yes Yes Yes No No
Rule-making authority Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Demonstrable accountability Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Orders Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Administrative monetary penalties Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Private right of action Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes No Yes *
* PIPEDA currently has a limited private right of action, limited to tens of thousands of dollars. Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) also provides for a private right of action, but this provision has yet to come into force.
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