Strengthening Privacy Protections for Ontario’s Digital Future

Published on June 17, 2021

Statement

TEESWATER — Today, Lisa Thompson, Minister of Government and Consumer Services, issued the following statement:

“Today, our government released a white paper for private sector and public input that outlines Ontario’s proposals to implement a fundamental right to privacy, protect Ontarians from unjustified surveillance, and promote responsible innovation.

Currently in Ontario, businesses are subject to a decades-old federal privacy law, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). Non-profits, trade unions, and other non-commercial organizations that often deal with sensitive information aren’t covered.

Recently, the federal government tabled Bill C-11, The Digital Charter Implementation Act, to update PIPEDA. While the bill may appear to be modernizing outdated legislation, it has stripped away key protections that Canadians expect to have and has been recognized as a “step back” by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

While a comprehensive, harmonized national privacy regime would be the best outcome for Ontarians, the federal bill is fundamentally flawed and, as it is currently written, will not keep our people safe.

With the release of our government’s Digital and Data Strategy, we are making safeguarding citizen data a priority. My ministry is therefore considering the possibility of provincial legislation that would govern citizen data, set a national gold standard for privacy protection, and correct the systemic power imbalances that have emerged between individuals and the organizations that collect and use their data.

Our proposals would aim to:

  • introduce a rights-based approach to privacy;
  • foster safe use of artificial intelligence and automated decision-making;
  • enhance consent and lawful uses of personal data;
  • ensure stronger data transparency;
  • protect vulnerable groups such as children and youth;
  • create a fair, proportionate and supportive regulatory regime; and
  • support innovators and expand scope to not-for-profits, charities, trade unions and non-commercial activities.

These proposals build on privacy consultations held last year with experts including the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC), who expressed strong support for Ontario creating a principle-based private sector privacy law to bring greater clarity to rules and create a level playing field for organizations. We are now taking the prudent step to consult further and work closely with the IPC on specific parts of a possible made-in-Ontario privacy law. We intend to provide a minimum of two years for businesses to come into compliance if we proceed with our own legislation to address the clear need for stronger privacy protections.

We hope that in reading our policy proposals, the federal government will consider changes to Bill C-11 to meet the needs of all Canadians. I have extended an invitation to my federal counterparts to discuss how we can come together on an improved national privacy law.

However, if our province finds that a made-in-Ontario privacy law is our only option, we will be ready.

I encourage all Ontario citizens, parents, businesses, and organizations to review and provide their input on our white paper by August 3, 2021, at Ontario.ca/PrivacyProtection.”


Quotes

"The time has come for Ontario to fill important gaps in the existing legislative frameworks and address the increasingly complex digital landscape. My submission to government highlighted the need for a modern privacy regulatory regime that is principles-based, fair and well-balanced, pragmatic, flexible, and proportionate. Consumers, businesses, and government have all come to the shared realization that privacy protection, far from impeding innovative solutions, is key to enabling their success. Ontarians need to trust that their personal data will be treated responsibly and respectfully. With a possible private sector privacy law, the Ontario government can earn that trust and advance its goal of facilitating data-driven innovations for the benefit of all its citizens."

- Patricia Kosseim
Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario

"Privacy is a gateway right to other rights and freedoms, including free expression, personal and collective autonomy, and freedom from harassment. It is critically important that Ontario modernizes outdated privacy laws and creates regulations that protect individual and collective rights and encourage responsible innovation."

- Jim Balsillie
Chair, Council of Canadian Innovators and founder of Centre for Digital Rights