Articles & Media

Bill 3 - Proposed Amendments to PIPA


By Vicki Giles

About a year ago, the Supreme Court of Canada found Alberta's Personal Information Protection Act ("PIPA") to be unconstitutional because it fails to permit unions to collect, use and disclose personal information for the purpose of advancing their interests in a labour dispute. The decision arose out of a complaint from various individuals that the UFCW had photographed and videotaped them as they crossed a union picket line during a strike. The Privacy Commissioner determined that PIPA did not allow the Union to collect personal information without consent in these circumstances. The Court found that the legislation's failure to allow this type of activity was a breach of a union's freedom of expression under the Charter.

The Court determined that although society has an interest in ensuring that individuals have control over the collection, use and disclosure of their personal information, that interest must be balanced against the historical and fundamental importance of freedom of expression in the context of labour disputes. The restrictions placed by PIPA on a union's ability to communicate and persuade the public to support its cause were therefore found to be a disproportionate response to the objective of providing individuals with control over their personal information.

The Court gave Alberta 12 months to make changes to PIPA to make it constitutional. Alberta was granted a six month extension on October 30, and on November 18, in the form of Bill 3 (the Personal Information Protection Amendment Act, 2014), introduced its proposed changes to amend the legislation. The government has chosen to focus directly on the issue as it was stated by the Supreme Court rather than looking at the legislation more broadly. Its proposed amendments authorize trade unions to collect, use and disclose personal information without consent only in the limited circumstances of a matter relating to a labour relations dispute. The proposed changes still offer some protection to individuals even in the context of a labour dispute - the union collection, use and disclosure has to be reasonably necessary taking into consideration all of the circumstances including the nature and sensitivity of the information being collected, used or disclosed.

The Bill still has to pass several more steps before it will come into effect but we expect it will probably pass without much fanfare.

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