To prevent potential unauthorized use of your personal information, you may wish to remove your information from a government’s voters list. You can generally do so by writing to your government. For more details, navigate to the “Canada” tab or to the tab of your province or territory.
Remember that uses of your personal information that are considered “authorized” are set out in the election legislation of the jurisdiction. Typically for election agencies, your personal information is only authorized to be used for electoral purposes.
Unauthorized use of your personal information from a voters list is likely a contravention of that agency’s election act. Typically, election acts are enforced by the jurisdiction’s chief electoral officer or by a commissioner of elections. For example, at the federal level, the Canada Elections Act is enforced by the Commissioner of Canada Elections. If someone contravenes the Canada Elections Act’s provisions regarding authorized uses of your personal information, you can file a complaint with the commissioner, which would likely trigger an investigation.
At the provincial level, there are similar processes. For example, Elections BC (the Chief Electoral Officer) will investigate complaints made about contraventions of the BC Elections Act, which includes unauthorized uses of personal information. If the Chief Electoral Officer finds the complaint to be substantiated, they can issue a variety of remedies, including:
Election acts can also be enforced in other ways. Sometimes a prosecutor gets involved (this is more likely for serious contraventions) and sometimes the issue is treated as a civil matter.
Here is a list of resources for each Canadian jurisdiction for making a privacy complaint:
If a political entity makes an unauthorized use of your personal information from a voters list, they may be subject to an investigation by the election authority of their jurisdiction. For information on how to make a complaint about this in your jurisdiction, see the “Governments” drop-down menu above. For misuse of personal information gathered by means other than the voters list, there is no clear avenue for a privacy complaint. Whether privacy legislation should apply to political entities is a largely unresolved legal issue.
Appearing before the Senate of Canada, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has stated the following:
“Currently, the Privacy Act governs how the federal government handles personal information, and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) governs how personal information is handled by the private sector. However, political parties are not currently covered under either the Privacy Act or PIPEDA…
For over a decade, there have been calls to improve the data handling practices of political parties to ensure that the privacy rights of Canadian voters are properly protected…
Given the importance of privacy and the sensitive nature of the information being collected, Canadians need and deserve a privacy regime for political parties that goes further than self-regulation and that provides meaningful standards and independent oversight to protect and promote electors’ fundamental right to privacy.
Political parties should be subject to specific privacy rules that are substantially similar to the requirements that are set out for the public and private sectors in the Privacy Act and PIPEDA, while at the same time being adapted to the unique role played by political parties in the democratic process. In other words, privacy requirements that are grounded in legislation, that conform with internationally recognized privacy principles, and that include recourse to an independent third party with authority to verify and enforce compliance and provide remedies in case of a breach.”
One step towards the imposition of such a framework on political parties was the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of BC’s finding that the province’s Personal Information Protection Act applies to federal political parties. However, this finding is now subject to judicial review. For FIPA’s position on the issue, click here.
Privacy complaints may soon become an avenue of recourse for privacy violations by political entities (political parties in particular), but whether privacy legislation applies to political parties at all unfortunately remains an unresolved legal question.
These pages were last updated and reviewed in May of 2023.
The information on these pages only contains general information and guidance; none of the information constitutes legal advice. If you have a specific issue that you believe is a legal problem, the best practice is to consult a lawyer.
The information is non-partisan, dynamic, and ever changing. It is the result of FIPA’s research and public education programs.
If you note something that needs to be added, corrected, or removed, please contact us by email: fipa AT fipa.bc.ca.