Canadian Lawyer

December/January 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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6 UPFRONT NEWS ANALYSIS THE FEDERAL government provided an early Christmas present to privacy lawyers in enacting its Digital Charter Implementa- tion Act in November, and law firms released a flurry of updates just after the long-awaited changes were announced. The new proposed legislation will impose heavier fines on businesses for breaching indi- viduals' digital privacy rights and give individ- uals greater control over their personal infor- mation. Privacy lawyers had long complained that Canada was lagging in international trends on privacy protection. "I would say it's the most important privacy reform in 20 years," says Chantal Bernier, head of Dentons Canada LLP's Canadian Privacy and Cybersecurity practice group and interim privacy commissioner of Canada from 2013 to 2014. The corporate fines that would be imposed for the most serious infractions of digital privacy are significant: five per cent of an organization's gross global revenue in its finan- cial year before the one in which the organiz- ation is sentenced or $25 million, whichever figure is higher. "These fines represent a sea change in comparison to how our federal regulator has previously approached non-compliance and will likely spur all businesses subject to these new laws to take a much harder look at their existing privacy practices," says Lisa Lifshitz, a partner at Torkin Manes in Toronto and leader of the firm's technology, privacy & data management group. If passed, the reforms will enact two new acts — the Consumer Privacy Protection Act and the Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act — and amend some other acts. The government is seeking feedback until Jan. 17, 2021. Before the federal overhaul, Quebec was leading the provincial pack in developing a framework that was more consistent with international trends, such as the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. Quebec's National Assembly introduced Bill 64, An Act to modernize legislative provisions as regards the protection of personal informa- tion this summer, which caused alarm bells for some privacy lawyers who felt it could be the strictest in the world. "It would definitely make Quebec the most stringent jurisdiction by far," says Éloise Gratton, a privacy lawyer at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP in Montreal. Gratton says restrictions on cross-border transfers could significantly hamper business in Quebec. "I am hoping that [the federal reforms] will encourage the [Quebec] government to revisit the onerous and unrealistic cross-border requirements." Ontario has also embarked on a consulta- "I am hoping that [the federal reforms] will encourage the [Quebec] government to revisit the onerous and unrealistic cross-border requirements." Éloise Gratton, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP Long-awaited privacy reform Privacy lawyers have been saying Canada desperately needs to align its privacy laws with international trends, and last month they finally got their wish, writes Tim Wilbur

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