Liberal MP introduces private member’s bill to increase the privacy commissioner’s powers

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith’s bill seeks to provide Canada’s privacy commissioner with more power to enforce the country's existing privacy legislation

Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith put forward a private member’s bill in Parliament today aimed at increasing the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s (OPC) ability to enforce the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).

PIPEDA governs how private sector organizations collect, use and disclose personal information during the course of commercial business.

Erskine-Smith’s legislation, An Act to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (compliance with obligations) — also known as Bill C-413 — seeks to “expand the grounds on which the Privacy Commissioner may decide not to investigate a complaint.”

Additionally, Bill C-413 seeks to provide the privacy commissioner with the ability to force an organization to undertake any action that the commissioner deems necessary in order to adhere to PIPEDA.

If passed, Bill C-413 would also fine any organization that fails to comply with PIPEDA.

“The bill aims to implement our parliamentary privacy committee’s unanimous recommendations to strengthen the enforcement powers of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, including the power to make orders, and broader discretion to audit organizations for compliance with our laws,” said Erskine-Smith, while introducing the legislation to Parliament, on June 20th, 2018.

“What we have is an ombudsman. What we need is a regulator. “

While the bill was read for the first time, it’s important to note that private member’s bills often don’t become law.

Erskine-Smith is the MP for the Beaches-East York riding in Toronto.

The privacy commissioner’s conundrum

Canada’s current privacy commissioner, Daniel Therrien, has previously expressed the need for his office to more strictly enforce Canada’s privacy legislations.

While Therrien’s office is able to conduct searches and compel organizations to turn over documents during investigations, the most that the commissioner can do is publish a report with recommendations.

“It’s at the end, after the investigation, that our powers are lacking,” Therrien said to reporters, during a media scrum in April 2018.

Therrien has previously recommended to Parliament that the OPC be given the authority to make orders against companies and impose fines when necessary.

“Our office welcomes this private member’s bill, which puts forward a number of the recommendations we have been making regarding the need for stronger enforcement powers in order to better protect the privacy of Canadians and deal more effectively with companies that refuse to comply with the law,” said an OPC spokesperson, in an email to MobileSyrup.

“The Commissioner has noted it is clear the privacy of Canadians is facing significant risks and modernization of federal privacy laws is urgently required to provide Canadians with the protection they expect and deserve.”

Via: The Wire Report

Update 21/06/2018 5:19 p.m.: Story updated with comment from the OPC.