Following the passing of former Information and Privacy Commissioner David Flaherty, the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (BC FIPA) wishes to extend its deepest condolences to his wife Karen and all of David’s family. BC FIPA celebrates his long-lasting and significant contributions to not only our province, but the rest of Canada and internationally. It is impossible to overstate the impact David Flaherty made in the sector and on those he met. Throughout his life, he was champion of the right to know and the right to be let alone.
David Harris Flaherty was born in Campbellton, New Brunswick on the 25th of February, 1940, to Edwin and Mary Flaherty. He was an Honours graduate of McGill University (1962), and from there completed an MA and Ph.D. at Columbia University.
Flaherty began his teaching career in 1965. He taught history at Princeton University and the University of Virginia. Beginning in 1972, he was professor of history and law at the University of Western Ontario, where is subsequently became professor emeritus. From 1984 to 1989, he was also the first Director of the Centre for American Studies at the University of Western Ontario. He held fellowships and scholarships at Harvard, Oxford, Stanford and Georgetown Universities, and was a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC from 1992 to 1993 and a Canada-US Fulbright Scholar in Law.
Flaherty’s involvement in issues of information and privacy began at Columbia University as an assistant to Professor Alan F. Westin in 1964, writing his first book, “Privacy in Colonial New England,” eight years later. He went on to write or edit 13 more books, including the widely-influential 1989 “Protecting Privacy in Surveillance Societies: The Federal Republic of Germany, Sweden, France, Canada, and the United States.” Beginning in 1980, Flaherty was at the centre of a shift in Canadian legal history scholarship, which had previously been focused primarily on English common law. He contributed significantly as a historian an editor as the field expanded its scope to new areas of law and periods of time.
Between 1993 and 1999, Flaherty served a six-year, non-renewable term as British Columbia’s first Information and Privacy Commissioner. He issued 320 orders under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, paving the way for the development of information and privacy law in BC for decades to come, as well as the development of privacy impact assessments and various methods of compliance auditing.