The Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) has declared the Alberta Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA”) invalid, but suspended that declaration for 12 months to allow the Alberta government time to review its legislation.
In the unanimous decision released on Friday in Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner) v. United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401, the SCC concluded that while the protection of personal information is an important objective, PIPA went too far in limiting expressive conduct.
The decision arose out of a strike at an Edmonton Casino. During the strike, the UFCW, Local 401 (the “Union”) took videos and photographs of individuals crossing the picket line. The Union then used those images on posters, newsletters and the internet. Certain individuals whose images had been used complained, under PIPA, to the Alberta Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The Commissioner concluded that the Union’s conduct violated the PIPA and upheld the complaints.
The SCC held that PIPA prohibits the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information for many legitimate, expressive purposes related to labour relations. Accordingly, those sections of the PIPA which prohibited the Union from collecting and using such videos and photos without consent unduly restricted the Union’s right to freedom of expression.
Notably, the SCC did not undertake an analysis of the appropriateness of the Union’s conduct: the Court concluded only that privacy, like freedom of expression, is not an absolute value and the nature of the expression must be considered when striking an appropriate balance between these two values.
This decision will impact privacy legislation federally and in British Columbia, both of which have privacy legislation which is effectively identical to the Alberta PIPA.
If you have any questions about workplace privacy issues, or any other questions relating to workplace law, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.
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