Modernizing Canada’s Privacy Act: What We Heard Report

Justice Canada’s Preliminary Technical Engagement on Privacy Act Modernization

Summer and Fall 2019


About the Privacy Act Modernization Initiative

Our world has changed dramatically since the Privacy Act came into force in 1983. After more than 35 years of technological advances and social change, Canadians’ expectations of how federal institutions collect, use, share and store their personal information have evolved. Given these societal and technological shifts, Justice Canada is currently undertaking a review of the Privacy Act, the federal public sector privacy legislation focused on the protection of personal information held by federal government institutions.

As part of its commitment to modernizing the Privacy Act, Justice Canada launched a preliminary targeted technical engagement with experts – a preliminary step to an eventual broader public consultation process. In June 2019, Justice Canada engaged privacy, data and digital, and government stakeholders in an initial discussion on a number of technical and legal considerations to modernizing the Privacy Act.

The preliminary engagement had three main objectives, with a view to informing the review of the Privacy Act where appropriate:

  1. To confirm with privacy, digital and data experts key legal policy considerations the Government should be taking into account in modernizing the Privacy Act;
  2. To seek the views of a range of Government of Canada departments and agencies; and
  3. To seek views from experts on legal and policy considerations touching on the Privacy Act that have a particular impact on Indigenous Peoples.

Format of the Preliminary Technical Engagement

Given the preliminary and targeted nature of this engagement, Justice Canada sought to generate a focussed discussion on the modernization of the Privacy Act with stakeholders with a specialized expertise in privacy, technology and digital issues. Justice Canada prepared five discussion papers as a launch pad for the engagement (See Appendix A). The discussion papers set out commentary and questions about the underlying challenges and opportunities that arise out of modernizing the Privacy Act, and were posted on Justice Canada’s Privacy Act modernization webpage (available at

The discussion papers were also provided to academics, Indigenous groups, legal experts, industry experts and international data protection experts, based on their demonstrable interest and expertise in privacy and digital issues. Some recipients had appeared before the ETHI Committee during its 2016 study on Privacy Act review and its 2019 study on Privacy and Digital Government Services. Stakeholders were encouraged to share the discussion papers with other experts within their respective networks, to reach the broadest network of relevant experts as possible. Stakeholders were asked to provide written comments in response to the issues raised in the discussions papers by the fall of 2019.