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Privacy Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. P-21)

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Act current to 2022-05-16 and last amended on 2021-11-23. Previous Versions

Privacy Act

R.S.C., 1985, c. P-21

An Act to extend the present laws of Canada that protect the privacy of individuals and that provide individuals with a right of access to personal information about themselves

Short Title

Marginal note:Short title

 This Act may be cited as the Privacy Act.

  • 1980-81-82-83, c. 111, Sch. II “1”

Purpose of Act

Marginal note:Purpose

 The purpose of this Act is to extend the present laws of Canada that protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves held by a government institution and that provide individuals with a right of access to that information.

  • 1980-81-82-83, c. 111, Sch. II “2”

Interpretation

Marginal note:Definitions

 In this Act,

administrative purpose

administrative purpose, in relation to the use of personal information about an individual, means the use of that information in a decision making process that directly affects that individual; (fins administratives)

alternative format

alternative format, with respect to personal information, means a format that allows a person with a sensory disability to read or listen to the personal information; (support de substitution)

Court

Court means the Federal Court; (Cour)

designated Minister

designated Minister means a person who is designated as the Minister under subsection 3.1(1); (ministre désigné)

government institution

government institution means

  • (a) any department or ministry of state of the Government of Canada, or any body or office, listed in the schedule, and

  • (b) any parent Crown corporation, and any wholly-owned subsidiary of such a corporation, within the meaning of section 83 of the Financial Administration Act; (institution fédérale)

head

head, in respect of a government institution, means

  • (a) in the case of a department or ministry of state, the member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada who presides over the department or ministry, or

  • (b) in any other case, either the person designated under subsection 3.1(2) to be the head of the institution for the purposes of this Act or, if no such person is designated, the chief executive officer of the institution, whatever their title; (responsable d’institution fédérale)

personal information

personal information means information about an identifiable individual that is recorded in any form including, without restricting the generality of the foregoing,

  • (a) information relating to the race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age or marital status of the individual,

  • (b) information relating to the education or the medical, criminal or employment history of the individual or information relating to financial transactions in which the individual has been involved,

  • (c) any identifying number, symbol or other particular assigned to the individual,

  • (d) the address, fingerprints or blood type of the individual,

  • (e) the personal opinions or views of the individual except where they are about another individual or about a proposal for a grant, an award or a prize to be made to another individual by a government institution or a part of a government institution specified in the regulations,

  • (f) correspondence sent to a government institution by the individual that is implicitly or explicitly of a private or confidential nature, and replies to such correspondence that would reveal the contents of the original correspondence,

  • (g) the views or opinions of another individual about the individual,

  • (h) the views or opinions of another individual about a proposal for a grant, an award or a prize to be made to the individual by an institution or a part of an institution referred to in paragraph (e), but excluding the name of the other individual where it appears with the views or opinions of the other individual, and

  • (i) the name of the individual where it appears with other personal information relating to the individual or where the disclosure of the name itself would reveal information about the individual,

but, for the purposes of sections 7, 8 and 26 and section 19 of the Access to Information Act, does not include

  • (j) information about an individual who is or was an officer or employee of a government institution that relates to the position or functions of the individual including,

    • (i) the fact that the individual is or was an officer or employee of the government institution,

    • (ii) the title, business address and telephone number of the individual,

    • (iii) the classification, salary range and responsibilities of the position held by the individual,

    • (iv) the name of the individual on a document prepared by the individual in the course of employment, and

    • (v) the personal opinions or views of the individual given in the course of employment,

  • (j.1) the fact that an individual is or was a ministerial adviser or a member of a ministerial staff, as those terms are defined in subsection 2(1) of the Conflict of Interest Act, as well as the individual’s name and title,

  • (k) information about an individual who is or was performing services under contract for a government institution that relates to the services performed, including the terms of the contract, the name of the individual and the opinions or views of the individual given in the course of the performance of those services,

  • (l) information relating to any discretionary benefit of a financial nature, including the granting of a licence or permit, conferred on an individual, including the name of the individual and the exact nature of the benefit, and

  • (m) information about an individual who has been dead for more than twenty years; (renseignements personnels)

personal information bank

personal information bank means a collection or grouping of personal information described in section 10; (fichier de renseignements personnels)

Privacy Commissioner

Privacy Commissioner means the Commissioner appointed under section 53; (Commissaire à la protection de la vie privée)

sensory disability

sensory disability means a disability that relates to sight or hearing. (déficience sensorielle)

  • R.S., 1985, c. P-21, s. 3
  • 1992, c. 1, s. 144(F), c. 21, s. 34
  • 2002, c. 8, s. 183
  • 2006, c. 9, s. 181
  • 2019, c. 18, s. 47

Marginal note:For greater certainty

  •  (1) For greater certainty, any provision of this Act that applies to a government institution that is a parent Crown corporation applies to any of its wholly-owned subsidiaries within the meaning of section 83 of the Financial Administration Act.

  • Marginal note:For greater certainty

    (2) For greater certainty, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and the Public Sector Pension Investment Board are parent Crown corporations for the purposes of this Act.

  • 2006, c. 9, s. 182

Marginal note:Application

 Paragraph (j.1) of the definition personal information in section 3 applies only to records created on or after the day on which that paragraph comes into force.

Designation

Marginal note:Power to designate Minister

  •  (1) The Governor in Council may designate a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada to be the Minister for the purposes of any provision of this Act.

  • Marginal note:Power to designate head

    (2) The Governor in Council may, by order, designate a person to be the head of a government institution, other than a department or ministry of state, for the purposes of this Act.

  • 2006, c. 9, s. 182

Collection, Retention and Disposal of Personal Information

Marginal note:Collection of personal information

 No personal information shall be collected by a government institution unless it relates directly to an operating program or activity of the institution.

  • 1980-81-82-83, c. 111, Sch. II “4”

Marginal note:Personal information to be collected directly

  •  (1) A government institution shall, wherever possible, collect personal information that is intended to be used for an administrative purpose directly from the individual to whom it relates except where the individual authorizes otherwise or where personal information may be disclosed to the institution under subsection 8(2).

  • Marginal note:Individual to be informed of purpose

    (2) A government institution shall inform any individual from whom the institution collects personal information about the individual of the purpose for which the information is being collected.

  • Marginal note:Exception

    (3) Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply where compliance therewith might

    • (a) result in the collection of inaccurate information; or

    • (b) defeat the purpose or prejudice the use for which information is collected.

  • 1980-81-82-83, c. 111, Sch. II “5”

Marginal note:Retention of personal information used for an administrative purpose

  •  (1) Personal information that has been used by a government institution for an administrative purpose shall be retained by the institution for such period of time after it is so used as may be prescribed by regulation in order to ensure that the individual to whom it relates has a reasonable opportunity to obtain access to the information.

  • Marginal note:Accuracy of personal information

    (2) A government institution shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that personal information that is used for an administrative purpose by the institution is as accurate, up-to-date and complete as possible.

  • Marginal note:Disposal of personal information

    (3) A government institution shall dispose of personal information under the control of the institution in accordance with the regulations and in accordance with any directives or guidelines issued by the designated minister in relation to the disposal of that information.

  • 1980-81-82-83, c. 111, Sch. II “6”

Protection of Personal Information

Marginal note:Use of personal information

 Personal information under the control of a government institution shall not, without the consent of the individual to whom it relates, be used by the institution except

  • (a) for the purpose for which the information was obtained or compiled by the institution or for a use consistent with that purpose; or

  • (b) for a purpose for which the information may be disclosed to the institution under subsection 8(2).

  • 1980-81-82-83, c. 111, Sch. II “7”

Marginal note:Disclosure of personal information

  •  (1) Personal information under the control of a government institution shall not, without the consent of the individual to whom it relates, be disclosed by the institution except in accordance with this section.

  • Marginal note:Where personal information may be disclosed

    (2) Subject to any other Act of Parliament, personal information under the control of a government institution may be disclosed

    • (a) for the purpose for which the information was obtained or compiled by the institution or for a use consistent with that purpose;

    • (b) for any purpose in accordance with any Act of Parliament or any regulation made thereunder that authorizes its disclosure;

    • (c) for the purpose of complying with a subpoena or warrant issued or order made by a court, person or body with jurisdiction to compel the production of information or for the purpose of complying with rules of court relating to the production of information;

    • (d) to the Attorney General of Canada for use in legal proceedings involving the Crown in right of Canada or the Government of Canada;

    • (e) to an investigative body specified in the regulations, on the written request of the body, for the purpose of enforcing any law of Canada or a province or carrying out a lawful investigation, if the request specifies the purpose and describes the information to be disclosed;

    • (f) under an agreement or arrangement between the Government of Canada or any of its institutions and the government of a province, the council of the Westbank First Nation, the council of a participating First Nation as defined in subsection 2(1) of the First Nations Jurisdiction over Education in British Columbia Act, the council of a participating First Nation as defined in section 2 of the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement Act, the government of a foreign state, an international organization of states or an international organization established by the governments of states, or any institution of any such government or organization, for the purpose of administering or enforcing any law or carrying out a lawful investigation;

    • (g) to a member of Parliament for the purpose of assisting the individual to whom the information relates in resolving a problem;

    • (h) to officers or employees of the institution for internal audit purposes, or to the office of the Comptroller General or any other person or body specified in the regulations for audit purposes;

    • (i) to the Library and Archives of Canada for archival purposes;

    • (j) to any person or body for research or statistical purposes if the head of the government institution

      • (i) is satisfied that the purpose for which the information is disclosed cannot reasonably be accomplished unless the information is provided in a form that would identify the individual to whom it relates, and

      • (ii) obtains from the person or body a written undertaking that no subsequent disclosure of the information will be made in a form that could reasonably be expected to identify the individual to whom it relates;

    • (k) to any aboriginal government, association of aboriginal people, Indian band, government institution or part thereof, or to any person acting on behalf of such government, association, band, institution or part thereof, for the purpose of researching or validating the claims, disputes or grievances of any of the aboriginal peoples of Canada;

    • (l) to any government institution for the purpose of locating an individual in order to collect a debt owing to Her Majesty in right of Canada by that individual or make a payment owing to that individual by Her Majesty in right of Canada; and

    • (m) for any purpose where, in the opinion of the head of the institution,

      • (i) the public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs any invasion of privacy that could result from the disclosure, or

      • (ii) disclosure would clearly benefit the individual to whom the information relates.

  • Marginal note:Personal information disclosed by Library and Archives of Canada

    (3) Subject to any other Act of Parliament, personal information under the custody or control of the Library and Archives of Canada that has been transferred there by a government institution for historical or archival purposes may be disclosed in accordance with the regulations to any person or body for research or statistical purposes.

  • Marginal note:Copies of requests under paragraph (2)(e) to be retained

    (4) The head of a government institution shall retain a copy of every request received by the government institution under paragraph (2)(e) for such period of time as may be prescribed by regulation, shall keep a record of any information disclosed pursuant to the request for such period of time as may be prescribed by regulation and shall, on the request of the Privacy Commissioner, make those copies and records available to the Privacy Commissioner.

  • Marginal note:Notice of disclosure under paragraph (2)(m)

    (5) The head of a government institution shall notify the Privacy Commissioner in writing of any disclosure of personal information under paragraph (2)(m) prior to the disclosure where reasonably practicable or in any other case forthwith on the disclosure, and the Privacy Commissioner may, if the Commissioner deems it appropriate, notify the individual to whom the information relates of the disclosure.

  • Marginal note:Definition of Indian band

    (6) In paragraph (2)(k), Indian band means

  • Marginal note:Definition of aboriginal government

    (7) The expression aboriginal government in paragraph (2)(k) means

  • Marginal note:Definition of council of the Westbank First Nation

    (8) The expression council of the Westbank First Nation in paragraphs (2)(f) and (7)(b) means the council, as defined in the Westbank First Nation Self-Government Agreement given effect by the Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act.

  • R.S., 1985, c. P-21, s. 8
  • R.S., 1985, c. 20 (2nd Supp.), s. 13, c. 1 (3rd Supp.), s. 12
  • 1994, c. 35, s. 39
  • 2000, c. 7, s. 26
  • 2004, c. 11, s. 37, c. 17, s. 18
  • 2005, c. 1, ss. 106, 109, c. 27, ss. 21, 25
  • 2006, c. 10, s. 33
  • 2008, c. 32, s. 30
  • 2009, c. 18, s. 23
  • 2014, c. 1, s. 19, c. 11, s. 24
  • 2017, c. 32, s. 18
  • 2018, c. 4, s. 132
 
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