Privacy and Freedom of Information
BY: Colonel Me Michel W. Drapeau, OMM, CD, LL.L., LL.B., Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, of the Ontario Bar and Me Marc-Aurèle Racicot, B.Sc., LL.B., LL.M., Director — Research and External Relations, with the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada, of the Quebec Bar
Parts I.1-II.3: Introduction and Administration
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Part I.1: Introduction - Purpose
Federal and provincial legislation provides individuals with a right of access to information in records under the control of government institutions, provides protection of the privacy of individuals about whom personal information is held by government institutions, and provides those individuals with access to that information. Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and the Yukon's legislation state the additional purposes of providing control over the manner in which the government may collect information from individuals, the use that the government may make of that information, and the right to request corrections. Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan's legislation omit the purpose but conform to the federal and other provincial legislation in most respects. Ontario, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia have municipal legislation which conforms to the same purpose as federal and provincial legislation, but deals exclusively with information held by local authorities.
The Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act are a seamless code with complementary provisions that can, and should be, interpreted harmoniously. Both Acts must be read jointly and neither takes precedence over the other.
Federal and Provincial legislation also provides rules for the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information in a manner that respects the privacy of individuals and recognizes the needs of private and non-governmental organizations to collect, use, and disclose personal information for purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate.
This legislative scheme closely mirrors the procedures provided in the existing federal public sector legislation. In addition, the legislation provides for the use of electronic alternatives where federal laws contemplate the use of paper to record or communicate information or transactions.
Provincial legislatures in British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador have enacted statutes which expressly create right of privacy.