April 23, 2015
BC Court of Appeal splits on Election Act third party spending
FIPA calls on BC government to fix Election Act third party advertising provisions
VANCOUVER, April 23, 2015 – In a 2-1 ruling handed down this morning, the BC Court of Appeal has upheld an earlier decision which found that although provisions of the Election Act violated the Charter, they could still be justified.
The law makes something as simple as putting a handwritten sign in your window during the election period without registering with the authorities an offence, which could result in a year in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Last year a BC Supreme Court judge ruled that although these third party spending provisions did violate the right to freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the violation was not ‘trivial or insubstantial’ as claimed by the government, it could be justified under section 1 of the Charter.
FIPA’s appeal of that decision was heard on February 13, 2015, and links to court documents in this case can be found here.
“We are disappointed with the decision, but the fight is not over,” said FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek. “The BC Legislature is currently examining legislation to amend the Election Act (Bill 20), and we call on the government to bring in amendments to end this injustice.”
FIPA would like to thank lawyers Sean Hern and Alison Latimer of Farris Vaughan for their extensive pro bono work on this case.
Vincent Gogolek, Executive Director
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
Email: Vincent (at) fipa.bc.ca
On March 31, the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada tabled a report in parliament on Canada’s Access to Information Act. The report puts forward 85 recommendations to update the Act so that it better serves Canadians. FIPA signed the following joint letter calling on the Canadian government to review and update the Act, using the Commissioner’s report as a starting point.
March 31, 2014
Canada’s access to information (ATI) system is in crisis. It is taxing on those who administer it, the process of obtaining information is unnecessarily lengthy and cumbersome for users and it results in far too little information being made public. In short, our ATI system is failing the Canadians it is intended to serve.
The undersigned civil society organizations from across the country are extremely concerned with the problematic state of our current system. The Access to Information Act, which came into effect in 1983, is in desperate need of review and updating. Created before the adoption of the Internet, social media, and the numerous digital tools and technologies now prevalent in our daily communications, the Act is woefully out of date and cannot address current and future production, storage, and dissemination of information realities.
Access to information held by public authorities is a critical aspect of democracy. It enables the citizenry to make educated decisions, to participate in decision-making processes and to hold government accountable for its actions. Without an effective system to ensure adequate access to information and to guarantee government transparency, our democratic system is seriously undermined.
Today, the Information Commissioner of Canada, Suzanne Legault, tabled a report in Parliament entitled, “Striking the Right Balance for Transparency: Recommendations to modernize the Access to Information Act.” At over 100 pages in length, and containing 85 different recommendations, the Report is a robust assessment of the current system and provides a useful roadmap for starting a broad public consultation on how to update the Act to better serve Canadians and streamline processes for public authorities.
It is long past time for the Act to be reviewed and updated. Once a world leader in ATI, our country now lags far behind. Canada is currently ranked 57th out of the 101 countries on the Centre for Law and Democracy’s Right to Information Rating, a comparative assessment of right to information laws from around the world. While other countries modernize their ATI policies and practices, the Canadian system is becoming increasingly outdated and ineffective. Until we take action to address the system’s shortcomings, we will continue to fall further and further behind.
Access to information is critical to any functioning democracy, and has been neglected in this country for far too long. We, the undersigned organizations, call on the Canadian government to initiate a holistic and comprehensive review of our access to information system, using the Commissioner’s recommendations as a starting point, with a view to adopting an updated ATI Law, among other things, within a reasonable time frame.
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
Canadian Association of Journalists
Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Canadian Journalism Foundation
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
Centre for Law and Democracy
Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 25, 2015
Privacy organization says now is the time to act to protect private information collected and shared by in-vehicle computer systems
VANCOUVER— The BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) has released a year-long study on privacy, consumer choice and onboard vehicle technology.
The Connected Car: Who is in the Driver’s Seat? looks at how vehicles have changed from simple means of transportation to computers on wheels. A new generation of “Connected Cars” is capable of remarkable feats, from navigation to diagnosing vehicle health, monitoring driver behavior and providing customized on-board infotainment services.
“Through telematics and wireless connectivity, cars are collecting and processing enormous amounts of data,” said FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek. “More and more of this data is personal information, and some of it reveals intensely private details of a person’s life.”
Data culled from vehicles can be used for safety, monitoring, customer relationship management and the new usage-based insurance programs offered in some Canadian provinces. Yet the same technologies that allow for safer, more convenient and more entertaining cars can be used to track and profile customers for marketing and other purposes.
“Some of the data collected and transmitted for data-mining and market research is simply not necessary for services and applications to work,” said the report’s head researcher and privacy lawyer Pippa Lawson.
“It opens the door to a range of privacy risks that include security breaches, malicious access and state surveillance.”
The report finds that the usage-based insurance programs now offered in Ontario and Quebec generally comply with Canadian privacy law, but automakers providing Connected Car services are failing to meet their legal obligations. Too often, consumers are given limited choice when it comes to the use and disclosure of their personal data collected by Connected Cars.
“The good news is that there’s still time to address these privacy challenges” said Gogolek, “but with Connected Cars set to mass-penetrate North American markets in the coming years, we need to get serious about setting industry standards and putting guidelines in place.”
This research was made possible by grant from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Contributions Program.
Vincent Gogolek, Executive Director,
Alternate Contact: Tamara Herman, Program Director
FIPA is a non-partisan, non-profit society that was established in 1991 to promote and defend freedom of information and privacy rights in Canada. Our goal is to empower citizens by increasing their access to information and their control over their own personal information. We serve a wide variety of individuals and organizations through programs of public education, public assistance, research, and law reform.