Prime Minister Trudeau Unveils the Canadian Digital Charter – Sparks Hope for Industry Collaboration

This month Prime Minister Trudeau announced a new Canadian Digital Charter that was designed to deliver innovation and consumer protection to Canadians. The charter includes several principles to address hate speech, consumer privacy, misinformation and protections against electoral interference.

In his announcement at the Viva Tech Conference, in front of an audience of start-ups and technology leaders, Trudeau ensured that the charter would be further developed collaboratively with tech companies to ensure citizens’ personal information remains protected and that solutions are developed to address online harassment. The Prime Minister said that the framework will work to restore the faith of citizens while holding online platforms accountable.

Following up on this announcement, during an address to the Empire Club of Canada, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, officially launched Canada’s new Digital Charter.  Minister Bains also expressed a commitment to a review of the federal privacy law for private-sector organizations, known as PIPEDA, as well as the Privacy Act, which applies to federal government institutions. He also promised more stringent enforcement mechanisms against companies that violate PIPEDA.

With this Digital Charter, the Government is laying the foundation for modernizing the rules that govern the digital sphere in Canada and rebuilding Canadians’ trust in these institutions. The 10 principles set out in the Charter will provide the framework for continued Canadian leadership in the digital and data-driven economy. This principled approach will not only protect Canadians’ privacy and personal data but also leverage Canada’s unique talents and strengths in order to harness the power of digital and data transformation.


The 10 principles of the Charter

  1. Universal Access:

All Canadians will have equal opportunity to participate in the digital world and the necessary tools to do so, including access, connectivity, literacy and skills.

  1. Safety and Security:

Canadians will be able to rely on the integrity, authenticity and security of the services they use and should feel safe online.

  1. Control and Consent:

Canadians will have control over what data they are sharing, who is using their personal data and for what purposes, and know that their privacy is protected.

  1. Transparency, Portability and Interoperability:

Canadians will have clear and manageable access to their personal data and should be free to share or transfer it without undue burden.

  1. Open and Modern Digital Government:

Canadians will be able to access modern digital services from the Government of Canada, which are secure and simple to use.

  1. A Level Playing Field:

The Government of Canada will ensure fair competition in the online marketplace to facilitate the growth of Canadian businesses and affirm Canada’s leadership on digital and data innovation, while protecting Canadian consumers from market abuses.

  1. Data and Digital for Good:

The Government of Canada will ensure the ethical use of data to create value, promote openness and improve the lives of people—at home and around the world.

  1. Strong Democracy:

The Government of Canada will defend freedom of expression and protect against online threats and disinformation designed to undermine the integrity of elections and democratic institutions.

  1. Free from Hate and Violent Extremism:

Canadians can expect that digital platforms will not foster or disseminate hate, violent extremism or criminal content.

  1. Strong Enforcement and Real Accountability:

There will be clear, meaningful penalties for violations of the laws and regulations that support these principles.

Two days later, in his opening address of the IAPP Privacy Summit, Canadian Privacy Commission Daniel Therrien responded to the Charter by reiterating the need for enhancements to PIPEDA and adding that giving his office enforcement powers would help facilitate change. He also announced that due to the charter announcement earlier in the week, the OPC is temporarily suspending its Consultation on Transborder Dataflows.

IAB Canada is optimistic that this consumer centric focus on privacy along with an emphasis on innovation and growth will put both businesses and consumers in a better position in the digital ecosystem. We are also hopeful as both ISED and the OPC have stated that they will be consulting with industry in their work to bring the components of the Charter to reality.

IAB Canada will continue to have discussions with key members of our government to ensure that both the needs and requirements of our industry are heard and that any amendments to current legislation or any new legislation is developed with both the consumer and industry in mind. We expect to be very involved in the discussions around amendments to Canada’s privacy laws as well as the question of enforcement.

The questions around transborder data flow will surely resurface during these consultations and we will be looking to our members to help create and review any submissions. We welcome your participation as these issues affect all of us personally and professionally.

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