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January 2014

Ontario Privacy Laws for Lawyers

Hot Topics in Privacy Law - Topic 1 of 5

First presented at MB's Privacy and Investigations Seminar on December 17, 2013


Ontario does not have a single overarching privacy and access law. Rather, it is subject to several different pieces of legislation that apply depending on the nature of the organization involved and the type of information that is being collected, used, or disclosed.

The principal privacy legislation of interest to lawyers in Ontario is PIPEDA. At its inception in 2001, PIPEDA was focused on the commercial activities of federally regulated organizations. However, in 2004, PIPEDA's scope was expanded to apply to every organization that collects, uses, or discloses personal information in the course of commercial activities; this includes private sector lawyers and the information gathered from their clients. PIPEDA also applies to federal works, undertakings and businesses with respect to their employee's personal.

PIPEDA also applies to all interprovincial and international transactions involving the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information in the course of their commercial activities.

PIPEDA does not apply to any organizations that are subject to a provincial law that is declared "substantially similar" to PIPEDA. In order for a provincial piece of legislation to be declared "substantially similar" to PIPEDA, it must be consistent with the key privacy principles outlined in PIPEDA, it must have an independent oversight body to govern it (such as a privacy commissioner), and it must have a mechanism through which people can seek redress for any alleged privacy violations.


Ontario has one privacy law that has been declared "substantially similar" to PIPEDA. The Personal Health information Protection Act of 2004 ("PHIPA") was declared substantially similar to PIPEDA; therefore, the collection, use and disclosure of personal health information in Ontario is governed by PHIPA, not PIPEDA. It is important to note however, that all personal information that is not personal health information will continue to be governed by PIPEDA.

Topic 1 - Ontario Privacy Laws for Lawyers
Topic 2 - Overview of PIPEDA
Topic 3 - Tort of intrusion upon seclusion (Jones v Tsige)
Topic 4 - New CASL legislation
Topic 5 - Key privacy cases for consideration



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