(5) The Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act ("the Canadian Act") of 13 April 2000(3) applies to private sector organisations that collect, use or disclose personal information in the course of commercial activities. It enters into force in three stages:
As from 1 January 2001, the Canadian Act applies to the personal information, other than personal health information, that an organisation, which is a federal work, undertaking or business, collects, uses or discloses in the course of commercial activity. These organisations are found in sectors such as airlines, banking, broadcasting, inter-provincial transportation and telecommunication. The Canadian Act also applies to all organisations that disclose personal information for consideration outside a province or outside Canada and to employee data relating to an employee in a federal work, undertaking or business.
From 1 January 2002, the Canadian Act will apply to personal health information for the organisations and activities already covered in the first stage.
As from 1 January 2004, the Canadian Act will extend to every organisation that collects, uses or discloses personal information in the course of a commercial activity, whether or not the organisation is a federally regulated business. The Canadian Act does not apply to organisations to which the Federal Privacy Act applies or that are regulated by the public sector at a provincial level, nor to non-profit organisations and charitable activities unless they are of a commercial nature. Similarly it does not cover employment data used for non-commercial purposes other than that relating to employees in the federally regulated private sector. The Canadian Federal Privacy Commissioner may provide further information on such cases.
(6) To respect the right of the provinces to legislate in their fields of jurisdiction, the Act provides that upon the passage of substantially similar provincial laws, an exemption may be granted to organisations or activities that will then be covered by the provincial privacy legislation. Section 26(2) of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act gives the federal cabinet the power, "if satisfied that legislation of a province that is substantially similar to this Part applies to an organisation, a class of organisations, an activity or a class of activities, to exempt the organisation, activity or class from the application of this Part in respect of the collection, use or disclosure of personal information that occurs within that province". The Governor in Council (Canadian federal cabinet) makes exemptions for substantially similar legislation by way of Order-in-Council.
(7) Where and whenever a province adopts legislation that is substantially similar, the organisations, classes of organisations or activities covered will be exempted from the application of the federal law for intra-provincial transactions; the federal law will continue to apply to all interprovincial and international collections, uses and disclosures of personal information as well as in all instances where provinces have not created substantially similar legislation in whole or in part.
(9) The Canadian Act covers all the basic principles necessary for an adequate level of protection for natural persons, even if exceptions and limitations are also provided for in order to safeguard important public interests and to recognise certain information which exists in the public domain. The application of these standards is guaranteed by judicial remedy and by independent supervision carried out by the authorities, such as the Federal Privacy Commissioner invested with powers of investigation and intervention. Furthermore, the provisions of Canadian law regarding civil liability apply in the event of unlawful processing which is prejudicial to the persons concerned.