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How PIPEDA applies to charitable and non-profit organizations

Revised: June 2019

Non-profit organizations are usually not subject to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) because they do not typically engage in commercial activities. This includes most charities, minor hockey associations, clubs, community groups and advocacy groups, for example. The following activities are not considered commercial and are not subject to PIPEDA:

  • collecting membership fees
  • organizing club activities
  • compiling a list of members' names and addresses
  • mailing out newsletters
  • fundraising

PIPEDA applies to organizations that collect, use or disclose personal information in the course of commercial activities. Commercial activity is the most important consideration in determining if the Act applies to the organization. PIPEDA defines commercial activity as:

"…any particular transaction, act or conduct or any regular course of conduct that is of a commercial character, including the selling, bartering or leasing of donor, membership or other fundraising lists."

When PIPEDA does apply

Non-profit status does not automatically exempt an organization from PIPEDA. Some organizations, such as golf clubs and athletic clubs, engage in commercial activities that are subject to the Act.

For example, selling, bartering or leasing a membership list or a list of donors is considered a commercial activity. If your organization is engaging in commercial activities, learn what you need to do to comply with PIPEDA when collecting personal information.

Find out which privacy law applies

Some provinces have legislation similar to PIPEDA that may apply to charities and other non-profit organizations. If you are unsure which privacy law applies to your situation or who to contact about your issue, try using the Find the right organization to contact about your privacy issue tool on our website. To find contacts and links to privacy laws in Canada, consult Provincial and territorial privacy laws and oversight.

Whether your organization is subject to PIPEDA or not, you can still benefit from following PIPEDA fair information principles as a best practice.

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