Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act

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Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
An Act to support and promote electronic commerce by protecting personal information that is collected, used or disclosed in certain circumstances, by providing for the use of electronic means to communicate or record information or transactions and by amending the Canada Evidence Act, the Statutory Instruments Act and the Statute Revision Act'
Citation S.C. 2000, c. 5[1]
Enacted by Parliament of Canada
Date assented to 13 April 2000
Date commenced Section 1 in force 13 April 2000; Parts 2, 3 and 4 in force 1 May 2000; Part 1 in force 1 January 2001; Part 5 in force 1 June 2009
Legislative history
Bill 36th Parliament, Bill C-6
Introduced by John Manley, Minister of Industry

The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) (the Act) is a Canadian law relating to data privacy.[2] It governs how private sector organizations collect, use and disclose personal information in the course of commercial business. In addition, the Act contains various provisions to facilitate the use of electronic documents. PIPEDA became law on 13 April 2000 to promote consumer trust in electronic commerce. The act was also intended to reassure the European Union that the Canadian privacy law was adequate to protect the personal information of European citizens. In accordance with section 29 of PIPEDA, Part I of the Act ("Protection of Personal Information in the Private Sector") must be reviewed by Parliament every five years.[3] The first Parliamentary review occurred in 2007.[4]

PIPEDA incorporates and makes mandatory provisions of the Canadian Standards Association's Model Code for the Protection of Personal Information, developed in 1995. However, there are a number of exceptions to the Code where information can be collected, used and disclosed without the consent of the individual. Examples include reasons of national security, international affairs, and emergencies. Under the Act, personal information can also be disclosed without knowledge or consent to investigations related to law enforcement, whether federal, provincial or foreign.[5] There are also exceptions to the general rule that an individual shall be given access to his or her personal information. Exceptions may include information that would likely reveal personal information about a third party, information that cannot be disclosed for certain legal, security, or commercial proprietary reasons, and information that is subject to solicitor-client privilege.[6]


"Personal Information", as specified in PIPEDA, is as follows: information about an identifiable individual, but does not include the name, title or business address or telephone number of an employee of an organization.

The Act gives individuals the right to

  • know why an organization collects, uses or discloses their personal information;
  • expect an organization to collect, use or disclose their personal information reasonably and appropriately, and not use the information for any purpose other than that to which they have consented;
  • know who in the organization is responsible for protecting their personal information;
  • expect an organization to protect their personal information by taking appropriate security measures;
  • expect the personal information an organization holds about them to be accurate, complete and up-to-date;
  • obtain access to their personal information and ask for corrections if necessary; and
  • complain about how an organization handles their personal information if they feel their privacy rights have not been respected.

The Act requires organizations to

  • obtain consent when they collect, use or disclose their personal information;
  • supply an individual with a product or a service even if they refuse consent for the collection, use or disclosure of your personal information unless that information is essential to the transaction;
  • collect information by fair and lawful means; and
  • have personal information policies that are clear, understandable and readily available.


The implementation of PIPEDA occurred in three stages.[7] Starting in 2001, the law applied to federally regulated industries (such as airlines, banking and broadcasting). In 2002, the law was expanded to include the health sector. Finally in 2004, any organization that collects personal information in the course of commercial activity was covered by PIPEDA, except in provinces that have "substantially similar"[8] privacy laws. Six provincial privacy laws have been declared by the federal Governor in Council to be substantially similar to PIPEDA:

  • An Act Respecting the Protection of Personal Information in the Private Sector (Quebec).[9]
  • The Personal Information Protection Act (British Columbia).[10]
  • The Personal Information Protection Act (Alberta).[11]
  • The Personal Health Information Protection Act (Ontario).
  • The Personal Health Information Privacy and Access Act (New Brunswick).[12]
  • The Personal Health Information Act (Newfoundland and Labrador).[13]

Personal Information Protection Act (British Columbia)[edit]

Notable provisions of PIPA:

  • Consent must be garnered for collection of personal information
  • Collection of personal information limited to reasonable purposes
  • Limits use and disclosure of personal information
  • Limits access to personal information
  • Stored personal information must be accurate and complete
  • Designates the role of the Privacy Officer
  • Policies and procedures for breaches of privacy
  • Measures for resolution of complaints
  • Special rules for employment relationships


Personal Health Information Protection Act (Ontario)[edit]

The Personal Health Information Protection Act, known by its acronym PHIPA (typically pronounced 'pee-hip-ah'), established in 2004, outlines privacy regulations for health information custodians in Ontario, Canada. Breaches of PHIPA are directed to the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner.[15]

The Personal Health Information Protection Act serves three important functions:

  • To govern the collection, use and disclosure of personal health information by health information custodians.
  • To provide patients with a right to request access to and correction of their records of personal health information held by health information custodians.
  • To impose administrative requirements (regulations) on custodians with respect to records of personal health information.


On June 18, 2015, the Digital Privacy Act (Senate Bill S-4[17]) became law, amending the PIPEDA to include a business transaction exemption, mandatory breach notification requirements, enhanced powers for the Privacy Commissioner, and various other updates.

The PIPEDA sets out ground rules for how private sector organisations may collect, use or disclose personal information in the course of commercial activities. PIPEDA also applies to federal works, undertaking and business in respect of employee personal information. The law gives individuals the right to access and request correction of the personal information these organisations may have collected about them.

In general, PIPEDA applies to organisations' commercial activities in all provinces, except organisations that collect, use or disclose personal information entirely within provinces that have their own privacy laws, which have been declared substantially similar to the federal law. In such cases, it is the substantially similar provincial law that will apply instead of PIPEDA, although PIPEDA continues to apply to federal works, undertakings or businesses and to interprovincial or international transfers of personal information.


The Act does not create an automatic right to sue for violations of the law's obligations. Instead, PIPEDA follows an ombudsman model in which complaints are taken to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. The Commissioner is required to investigate the complaint and to produce a report at its conclusion. The report is not binding on the parties, but is more of a recommendation. The Commissioner does not have any powers to order compliance, award damages or levy penalties. The organization complained about does not have to follow the recommendations. The complainant, with the report in hand, can then take the matter to the Federal Court of Canada. The responding organization cannot take the matter to the Courts, because the report is not a decision and PIPEDA does not explicitly grant the responding organization the right to do so.[citation needed]

PIPEDA provides, at section 14, the complainant the right to apply to the Federal Court of Canada for a hearing with respect to the subject matter of the complaint. The Court has the power to order the organization to correct its practices, to publicise the steps it will take to correct its practices and to award damages.

Proposed Bill C-475[edit]

As a result of long-enduring and central gap in Canada’s privacy protections[18], Bill C-475 was proposed in February 2013 by Charmaine Borg, MP, proposing several amendments to the Act.[19] Bill C-475 was defeated in January 2014.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ McClennan, Jennifer P.; Schick, Vadim (2007). "O, Privacy: Canada's Importance in the Development of the International Data Privacy Regime". Georgetown Journal of International Law. 38: 669–693. 
  3. ^ Section 29 of the Act
  4. ^ PIPEDA Review – Privacy Commissioner of Canada
  5. ^ Section 7, subparagraph (3)(c.1)(ii) of the Actthe act
  6. ^ Subsection 9(3) of the Act
  7. ^ "Implementation Schedule - PIPEDA". Archived from the original on 2008-09-07. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  8. ^ "Canada Gazette". 2010-11-10. Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  9. ^ "An Act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  10. ^ "BILL 38 - 2003: PERSONAL INFORMATION PROTECTION ACT". 2004-01-01. Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  11. ^ "Alberta Queen's Printer:". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  12. ^ "Personal Health Information Custodians in New Brunswick Exemption Order:". Department of Justice. 2011-11-17. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  13. ^ "Personal Health Information Custodians in Newfoundland and Labrador Exemption Order". Canada Gazette. 2012-10-10. Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  14. ^ Perun, Halyna; Michael Orr; Fannie Dimitriadis (2005). "2". Guide to the Ontario Personal Health Information Protection Act. Toronto ON, Canada: Irwin Law. pp. 19–20. ISBN 978-1-4593-1363-7. 
  15. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  16. ^ Canada, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of. "The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)". Retrieved 2015-11-29. 
  17. ^ Canada, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of. "Fact Sheet: The Digital Privacy Act - Summary of key changes to the Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)". Retrieved 2015-11-29. 
  18. ^ Dusseault, Pierre-Luc (April 2013). "Report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics" (PDF). House of Commons Canada. 
  19. ^ "Private Member Bill Seeks to Bring Long Overdue Privacy Protections for Canadians". Retrieved 2013-06-26. 
  20. ^ "Bill C475". Retrieved 2014-12-13. 

External links[edit]