Information + Privacy

Access to information and privacy are evolving areas of law in Canada and there are distinctly different issues and legal frameworks for private and public sector organizations. Our lawyers work closely with clients in both sectors, developing policies to ensure compliance with access to information and privacy laws and systems to manage critical aspects of our clients’ operations.

We also provide our clients with education and training to ensure that everyone in a client’s organization understands the privacy and information handling obligations and procedures. In addition to staff training, we offer customized training for executives and senior management to help ensure that human resources management and marketing initiatives are on side with all pertinent privacy laws.

Our clients range from large institutional clients through to small businesses and include universities, health authorities, local governments, school boards, professional governing bodies, major Canadian retailers, credit bureaux, medical research companies, accounting firms, health sector organizations, charitable organizations and numerous small to medium-sized private sector operations.

For some clients – such as small business executives – information and privacy issues comprise only a small portion of their overall business responsibilities. For others, such as a chief privacy officer at a large health authority, they are central. In either case, we tailor our advice so that as our client, you receive the help you need, when you need it.

Public Sector Access to Information and Privacy Advice

We advise on compliance with the access to information and privacy requirements in the British Columbia Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FOIPPA”). We advise health sector clients on compliance with the E-Health (Personal Health Information Access and Protection of Privacy) Act (“E-Health”). We conduct privacy audits and contract reviews for public sector clients to ensure compliance with their privacy and security obligations in FOIPPA and E-Health. We provide advice on service contract language to ensure the security of sensitive personal information. We respond to requests for information and provide procedural advice and support as well as advice on discretionary and mandatory severance of information under FOIPPA. We represent public and private sector clients in proceedings before the Information and Privacy Commissioner and in judicial review of Commissioner’s orders. We provide training and education for management teams and employee groups on the obligations of public bodies under FOIPPA and E-Health. We advise and represent private sector business clients on the privacy implications of doing business with public bodies and protecting confidential business information provided to public bodies from disclosure under FOIPPA. We advise private sector clients seeking disclosure of information from public bodies.

Private Sector Privacy Advice

We regularly advise clients on the application of the British Columbia Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA”) and the federal private sector legislation, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (“PIPEDA”). We advise on compliance with the privacy and access to information requirements under PIPA and PIPEDA and potential liability for breach of privacy under the British Columbia Privacy Act and the common law. We conduct information and privacy audits. We draft privacy policies and other required forms such as consent to collect, use and disclose personal information to ensure our clients are in compliance with the prevailing legislation. We advise on and draft privacy schedules and privacy clauses in agreements. We advise clients of conflict of laws and overlapping jurisdictional issues with respect to inter-provincial and international data flows. We lead staff training on privacy legislation and company privacy policy. We manage the resolution of complaints under PIPA and PIPEDA and advise on steps required to avoid future breaches of privacy. We represent clients in proceedings before the British Columbia Information and Privacy Commissioner and the federal Privacy Commissioner and in litigation involving breach of privacy in British Columbia courts.

Legal Updates for Clients

Private sector privacy regulation in British Columbia is still relatively new and the guidelines related to the application of the new private sector privacy laws are still maturing. Part of the service we provide includes ensuring our clients are kept updated with guidelines and decisions about how employee and customer privacy and other issues are being dealt with by the British Columbia Information and Privacy Commissioner, the federal Privacy Commissioner and the courts.

We also monitor developments in the interpretation and application of key FOIPPA provisions that affect our public sector clients and private sector clients who do business with the public sector.

Industry Involvement

Members of our practice maintain membership in the Information and Privacy subsection of the Canadian Bar Association and regularly attend CLE events and information and privacy conferences. We also participate periodically in consultation groups with government in drafting and amending information and privacy legislation.

Representative Matters

  • Simon Fraser University v. Noble, 2011 BCCA 334, 2009 BCSC 1481
  • Provincial Health Services Authority v. British Columbia (Information and Privacy Commissioner), 2010 BCSC 931