Industry minister open to “improvements” to privacy law that watchdog reviewed

OTTAWA – The Liberal government is open to “improvements” to its new digital privacy law after a federal watchdog criticized the bill as a step backwards.

Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne said he still believes the law strikes the “right balance” between privacy rights and the ability of businesses to retrieve the personal information of Canadians.

But taking note of critics of Bill C-11 – including federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien – Champagne said the government would consider changes.

“I’ve heard (Therrien’s) point of view and I’ve heard the point of view of many others as well,” Champagne told the Star’s editorial board in a recent interview.

“My goal and my intention is to have the best possible frame (in the G7)… I think the digital frame is going to make a big difference. And this is very important for the digital economy. “

The Digital Charter Implementation Act is one of the most significant updates to Canada’s private sector privacy regime since 2000 – seven years before the first iPhone was released.

It is based on the Liberals’ ‘digital charter’, which was announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2019 as a framework to give Canadians more control over their personal data, to create tougher penalties for companies that abuse of this data, and to build a “trust base” for digital services.

Bill C-11 gives consumers the power to ask companies to delete their personal information, creates new transparency rules on the use of personal data and creates a new tribunal to determine whether companies should be ordered to pay a penalty. fine for inappropriate data practices.

But in Therrien’s analysis, Bill C-11 undermines the government’s objectives.

“Our point of view is that in its current state, the bill would represent an overall setback for the protection of privacy”, Therrien wrote recently.

“(The) provisions designed to give individuals more control give them less… (The) increased flexibility given to organizations to use personal information without consent does not come with the added liability one might expect. “

Therrien argued that instead of balancing privacy rights and the collection of personal data by businesses, the regime proposed by the Liberals is biased in favor of businesses. The privacy watchdog has also dismissed the idea that strong privacy protections will stifle the digital economy.

“Confidentiality is not an obstacle to innovation. On the contrary, legislation that effectively protects privacy can contribute to economic growth by giving consumers confidence that their rights will be respected, ”Therrien’s office wrote.

Champagne told The Star that although he “respects his point of view” he does not agree with Therrien.

The Minister of Industry said the updated framework will help boost investment in Canada’s digital economy, approvingly citing Estonia – one of the world’s leaders in digital government – as an example.

“These things matter. They make a difference in the way you attract people to invest, ”he said, adding that he“ still hopes ”the bill passes.

While Champagne called the legislation “very important”, the government does not seem in a great hurry to get it passed by the minority parliament.

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Bill C-11 has only been debated three times since its introduction last November and has yet to receive a single hearing before a House of Commons committee.

As the House of Commons approaches its summer recess and a federal election is expected later this year, the reform effort could stall until the next Parliament.


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