Bill C-11 – Digital Charter Implementation Act

With the adjournment of Parliament expected tomorrow evening, Bill C-11 (Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2020) remains stuck at the Second Reading stage. Because of that, and despite strong support from the business community, there is little chance that the legislation will become law before a widely expected federal election in the Fall. 

Throughout Spring 2021, Bill C-11 was treated as a political football because of issues unrelated to the substance of the legislation. The Liberal government signalled that it wanted to refer the Bill to the House of Commons Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (ETHI) after the Second Reading debate. The Conservatives wanted ETHI to continue its study of the WE Charity controversy, so they refused to allow Bill C-11 to come to a vote at the Second Reading unless it was referred to the Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. Bill C-11 was thus stalled by the pollical maneuvering of a minority government Parliament.

Early in the current Parliamentary session, there were signs that Bill C-11 would be priority legislation for the government. Ultimately though, in the context of a minority Parliament with competing legislative priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bill C-11 was not seen as a political necessity by the Liberals and, as a result, was not prioritized for passage through the House of Commons.

In the meantime, several Provinces have pursued their own privacy law reforms. Most notably, Quebec introduced Bill 64 (An Act to modernize legislative provisions as regards the protection of personal information, 2020). Bill 64 has raised concerns in the business community because it proposes an approach to privacy law different from other jurisdictions in Canada. In April, the British Columbia Legislative Assembly reconvened the Special Committee to Review the Personal Information Protection Act to review the province’s privacy legislation. Finally, last week, Ontario announced a public consultation on privacy law reform that will shape the province’s approach to privacy in the context of Bill C-11 failing to become law.

Regardless of the composition of the next federal Parliament, legislation to modernize the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act is almost certain to be a priority of the next government. In the interim, interested parties now have unexpected additional time to formulate recommendations to the government on this issue.

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