Canada: Keep an Eye on Labor Relations Trends About Privacy

By Catherine Skrzypinski May 24, 2023

​Workers in Canada increasingly rely on digital technology for work and to connect with colleagues. In response, the federal government wants to reassure Canadians that their personal information is safe and companies act in a responsible manner.

If passed, the Digital Charter Implementation Act 2022, or Bill C-27, would modernize Canada's approach to private-sector data protection and introduce new rules related to artificial intelligence, employment lawyers said in Vancouver, British Columbia (B.C.), May 2 at the 2023 HR Conference and Expo, held by the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of British Columbia and Yukon.

"Bill C-27 is not yet law, but this legislation could overhaul privacy issues in the federal workplace," said Koml Kandola, arbitrator and mediator at Kandola Arbitrations Services in North Vancouver, B.C. HR departments across Canada should watch how this legislation plays out, she added.

Bill C-27 would enact three new pieces of legislation:

  • The Consumer Privacy Protection Act would provide individuals more control over the collection and use of their personal information. This would repeal and replace privacy provisions in the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).
  • The Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act would form an administrative tribunal to hear appeals of decisions by the privacy commissioner. The tribunal would then determine whether penalties recommended by the commissioner are appropriate.
  • The Artificial Intelligence and Data Act would establish constraints on the development and use of AI systems. This act would also designate an AI and data commissioner and outline criminal prohibitions and penalties for certain uses of AI.

"Laws on privacy are changing quickly in Canada," said Wilson Chan, partner at Mathews, Dinsdale and Clark in Calgary, Alberta. "Employers should have a privacy policy in place." 

Leave Requirements

Another recent development has impacted Canada's federally regulated private sector, as nearly 1 million employees in the government, banking, telecommunications and transport sectors can now accrue up to 10 days of paid medical leave per year. This development—a significant change to the Canada Labor Code—went into effect in December 2022, Kandola explained.

"One thing COVID-19 made crystal clear is that when you're sick, you should stay home," Minister of Labor Seamus O'Regan Jr. said in a statement. "Ten days of paid sick leave means that more workers won't have to choose between getting well and getting paid."

Employees in B.C. can now take up to five days of paid leave for personal illness or injury over the course of a calendar year. This entitlement, which took effect in January 2022, is in addition to the three days of unpaid sick leave currently provided by the Employment Standards Act, Kandola stated.

Nondisclosure Agreements

In addition, the B.C. Green Party introduced legislation in March to make it illegal for employers and other organizations to misuse nondisclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment or discrimination. If the bill becomes law, then the Nondisclosure Agreements Act may affect the way employers in B.C. deal with discrimination and harassment complaints, Kandola said.

Similar legislation is already in place in Prince Edward Island and has been introduced in other provinces across Canada, including Manitoba and Nova Scotia, Kandola noted.

Catherine Skrzypinski is a freelance writer in Vancouver.



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