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Government & Not for Profit | June 25, 2018

Feds should be leading the way on data privacy laws: former commissioner

Robert Beggs

Excerpt: A private member’s bill tabled in the House of Commons Wednesday would greatly enhance the powers of the federal privacy commissioner, but one former commissioner wants to know why the legislation is coming from an individual MP rather than the government. The European Union’s tough new data privacy rules have created an “urgency” around the world to follow suit, said Ann Cavoukian, a former Ontario privacy commissioner. And she questioned why the Canadian government isn’t acting with more urgency. “I do not understand why the government wouldn’t be leading on this. That astounds me,” said Cavoukian, who pointed to recent polling on the issue as proof that beefed up privacy rules would be relatively uncontroversial. Although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has expressed cautious interest in boosting Canada’s privacy laws along the lines of the European model, no legislation has been proposed. Backbench Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who introduced the bill Wednesday, said he was not trying to force the government’s hand but simply to put the issue up for debate with some concrete proposals. Although the privacy commissioner’s powers are just one part of the problem, it’s the change that has nearly unanimous support, Erskine-Smith said. An all-party committee studying recent data breaches has twice recommended the enhanced powers but, so far, there’s been no movement from the government on legislation.