Ontario Launches Consultations on Privacy
August 2020 Charity & NFP Law Update
Published on August 27, 2020

By Esther Shainblum


On August 13, 2020, the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (“MGCS”) announced a public consultation to “create a legislative framework for privacy in the province's private sector” (the “Consultation”). According to the MGCS press release, the increased reliance on digital platforms that has resulted from the COVID-19 outbreak has led to the Consultation and there is “a strong need to build public and consumer confidence and trust in the digital economy”.

The Consultation, which is framed as a collaboration between the provincial government and the people of Ontario, is seeking feedback on the following eight privacy issues:

  • Increased transparency about how personal information is being used by businesses and organizations;
  • Allowing individuals to revoke consent at any time, and adopting an "opt-in" model for secondary uses of their information;
  • Introduce a "right to erasure" or "the right to be forgotten";
  • Introduce individual data portability rights;
  • Increased enforcement powers for the Information and Privacy Commissioner, including the authority to impose penalties;
  • New requirements for data that has been de-identified and derived from personal information;
  • Enable the establishment of data trusts for privacy protective data sharing; and
  • Expanding the scope and application of the law to include non-commercial organizations, including not-for-profits, charities, trade unions and political parties.

Anyone can participate in the Consultation through the online survey or the yet to be confirmed virtual Town hall sessions. Technical experts and industry organizations may also participate through written submissions on Ontario’s Regulatory Registry.

This Consultation may signal that legislative change is ahead in Ontario. The province does not currently have privacy legislation that governs the Ontario private sector and, as has been discussed previously in this publication, the federal private sector privacy legislation – the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act – only applies to private sector organizations to the extent that they are engaged in “commercial activities”.  This means that there is currently no privacy legislation that applies to Ontario’s charities and not-for-profits or to other organizations that are not engaged in “commercial activities”. In addition, PIPEDA only applies to the personal information of employees of federal works, undertaking or businesses, which are enterprises that fall within the legislative authority of the federal government, such as telecommunications, banking, airlines and broadcasting. New Ontario private sector privacy legislation would likely address those gaps.

In light of the Consultation and the prospect of up to date private sector privacy legislation in Ontario, it will be interesting to see whether the federal government moves ahead with its plans to modernize PIPEDA that were signalled in the proposed Digital Charter, discussed in Charity & NFP Law Bulletin No. 449. Charities and not-for-profits with operations in Ontario should consider participating in the Consultation and monitor any subsequent reports and developments from the MGCS about the province's legislative framework for privacy.

The Consultation is open until October 1, 2020.


Read the August 2020 Charity & NFP Law Update