Canada has two federal privacy laws that are enforced by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada:
- the Privacy Act, which covers how the federal government handles personal information;
- the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which covers how businesses handle personal information.
The Privacy Act
The Privacy Act relates to a person’s right to access and correct personal information that the Government of Canada holds about them. The Act also applies to the Government’s collection, use and disclosure of personal information in the course of providing services such as:
- old age security pensions
- employment insurance
- border security
- federal policing and public safety
- tax collection and refunds.
The Privacy Act only applies to federal government institutions listed in the Privacy Act Schedule of Institutions. It applies to all of the personal information that the federal government collects, uses, and discloses. This includes personal information about federal employees.
What is personal information?
Personal information is data about an “identifiable individual”. It is information that on its own or combined with other pieces of data, can identify you as an individual.
The definition of personal information differs somewhat under PIPEDA or the Privacy Act but generally, it can mean information about your:
- race, national or ethnic origin,
- age, marital status,
- medical, education or employment history,
- financial information,
- identifying numbers such as your social insurance number, or driver’s license,
- views or opinions about you as an employee.
For more information about privacy laws in Canada please see the following page on the Government of Canada website: