Nov 162018
the light went on.   I remember what “under the Law” means in the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

(NOTE:  List of RELATED postings at bottom)


There’s a BLIND SPOT that creates confusion.  And down the garden path we go.

the word PRIVACY  used in two different contexts has different meaning.
If you do not understand that, your expectations of where the path leads will likely be wrong.

Explain it this way:

You register a FOI  (Freedom of Information – – a request for access to documents in Government and public sector institutions) with, for example,  the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner.  

“Privacy” in that context is about our access to information about the self, that is held in government or public sector institutions.   


“Privacy” in the context of the Charter Right to Privacy of Personal Information is about Constitutional Law that prohibits “the state” (the Government) from amassing detailed personal information on individuals in the society.



I could not figure out:  why aren’t people and the media raising the Charter Right to Privacy of Personal Information?   (StatsCan’s plan to get personal data through enforced “collaborations” with the private sector.  Which they feel they have to do because of non-compliance by Canadians with handing over personal information to StatsCan.)

Non-compliance rates have been exposed. 2013-10   Lockheed Martin Census: StatsCan math is wrong on non-compliance. It’s 11%, not 2%. Under oath at the trial of Audrey Tobias.)  In truth,  non-compliance is higher than that.  One year for example,  the “Religion” of 12,000 Canadians was “Jedi” (from Star Wars)!


But never mind,  “The Privacy Commissioner is investigating“, we can relax – – it’s a slam-dunk.  But it’s not.  And it’s potentially dangerous  if the Privacy Commissioner issues a report saying StatsCan operations are within the Law.


The Privacy Commissioner operates “under the Law“.  There’s the nub of it.  WHICH Laws?  It’s the “Privacy Act” and one other.  I skimmed the Privacy Act – – it’s more about Access to personal information held in Govt Depts.

The Privacy Commissioner more or less frames the debate in media interviews;

 – the Charter Right to Privacy of Personal Information does not fall within his terms of reference.


I think that’s part of why you don’t see it in the media coverage.

Citizens are the ones who have to insert the Charter Right into the debate.   Scroll down, at bottom:



Large numbers of people balk at StatsCan’s efforts to obtain personal information  (and have been, for years).

2018-11-13  Canadians strongly oppose Statscan’s plan to obtain the banking records of 500,000 households: poll. Globe & Mail.


Another reason that the Charter Right is largely omitted from the public debate:  many Canadians do not know, or are not clear on whether such a Right exists.  I doubt that it’s taught in schools.


You might think that an investigation by the Privacy Commissioner will surely put an end to StatsCan’s plan to demand personal banking information from the Banks, until you realize

 “under the Law” means “under the 2 Acts of Parliament that govern the operations of the Privacy Commissioner”.

About the OPC

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is an Agent of Parliament whose mission is to protect and promote privacy rights. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) oversees compliance with the Privacy Act, which covers the personal information-handling practices of federal government departments and agencies, and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), Canada’s federal private-sector privacy law.

The Charter Right to Privacy of Personal Information is NOT a Law administered by the Privacy Commissioner.

I only skimmed the Privacy Act.     This phrase is representative:

  • 8(1) A request for access to personal information


WHY are the media reports saying nothing about the Charter Right to Privacy of Personal Information in this debate?

There’s a blind spot created by using the same word to describe two different things.

– – – – – – –

Links from the website for the Privacy Commissioner:
  Privacy Commissioner launches investigation into Statistics Canada

Announcement – October 31, 2018

I can think this (an investigation) will solve the problem – – StatsCan will not be allowed to order the banks to hand over people’s banking data.


– – – – – – –

From    Commissioner shares his views on the collection of financial information by Statistics Canada

Announcement – November 8, 2018


Indeed, Statistics Canada regularly consults us on the privacy implications of many of their initiatives; it (StatsCan) is always open to a dialogue and often accepts our recommendations.


After having received complaints related to Statistics Canada and its collection of personal information from private sector organizations, I have opened an investigation. 


I am at liberty to tell you that I have received 52 complaints on this matter as of this morning.






don’t know if our network is large enough to insert the Charter Right into the debate.   But let’s give it a try.   In a small office,  large volumes are hard to handle.  Quality of input, not quantity, counts!

I talked with a woman at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner who recommended (as I understand, the Report of the Commissioner will incorporate the Concerns we submit):

Go to:

Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Report a Concern

Notice:     This form is intended for individuals who want to share their comments with us but do not require a response from our Office.

(Maximum 4096 characters)

Tell the Privacy Commissioner your thoughts.   Might be helpful – – some ideas you can copy and change to suit yourself.:

  • Canadians have a Charter Right to Privacy of Personal Information.   OR
  • The Charter Right should be in your Report on StatsCan and the Banks.   OR
  •   This is what our Charter Right says:  “In fostering the underlying values of dignity, integrity and autonomy, it is fitting that s. 8 of the Charter should seek to protect a biographical core of personal information which individuals in a free and democratic society would wish to maintain and control from dissemination to the state.”     OR
  • The Charter Right to Privacy of Personal Information says that StatsCan can’t do what’s it’s trying to do.  Constitutional Law is higher than the Privacy Act and all other Acts of Parliament.  OR
  • Under the Law, if StatsCan wants to get the personal information of citizens from the Banks, it has to make a successful application to the Courts to grant them a Section 1 over-ride.  In Court StatsCan has to satisfy the criteria set out for the Govt to take away a Charter Right of all citizens.


(2010-12-23    Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 8 Privacy – Case Law: The Queen Vs Plant protects a “biographical core of personal information” from the state.  Oakes Test to override.)

Don’t forget the “COMMENTS” below.


2018-11-16   Surveillance Kills Freedom By Killing Experimentation, Bruce Schneier. from “The End of Trust”.

In my book Data and Goliath, I write about the value of privacy. I talk about how it is essential for political liberty and justice, and for commercial fairness and equality. I talk about how it increases personal freedom and individual autonomy, and how the lack of it makes us all less secure. But this is probably the most important argument as to why society as a whole must protect privacy: it allows society to progress.

We know that surveillance has a chilling effect on freedom. People change their behavior when they live their lives under surveillance. They are less likely to speak freely and act individually. They self-censor. They become conformist. This is obviously true for government surveillance, but is true for corporate surveillance as well. We simply aren’t as willing to be our individual selves when others are watching.

2018-11-16  the BLIND SPOT in Privacy Commissioner’s investigation of StatsCan (getting personal data from the private sector)

2018-11-13   Canadians strongly oppose Statscan’s plan to obtain the banking records of 500,000 households: poll. Globe & Mail.

2018-11-13  Blind men describing elephant: Reply to “I wish I could persuade you that everyone gains from what is being proposed” by StatsCan (collection of data from Banks)

2018-11-12    My reply to “StatsCan plan to scoop customer spending data from banks”

2018-11-11  The law that lets Europeans take back their data from big tech companies, CBS 60 Minutes.

2018-11-08  Senator ‘repelled’ by StatsCan plan to scoop customer spending data from banks, IT World Canada

2018-11-06   News Release from Senate of Canada: Senate committee to probe Statistics Canada’s request for Canadians’ banking data

2016-08-23  MK Ultra: CIA mind control program in Canada (1980) – The Fifth Estate

  5 Responses to “2018-11-16 the BLIND SPOT in Privacy Commissioner’s investigation of StatsCan (getting personal data from the private sector)”

  1. I submitted:

    You are investigating the actions of StatsCan under the two Laws you name.

    You do not name the greatest protection, and the highest Law (Constitutional Law) that protects privacy rights: Charter Right to Privacy of Personal Information under Section 8 case law (R v Plante).

    An investigation of StatsCan actions that disregards the Charter Right would be an assault on the Charter Right by the Privacy Comm, by the Government itself.

    If StatsCan wishes to take away our Charter Right to Privacy, it has to apply to the Courts for a Section 1 override. It has to successfully meet the criteria set out in the Oakes test for an override of Charter Right.

    An investigation “under the Law” into StatsCan actions to obtain personal information will be unprincipled and discreditable if done without reference to the Charter Right.


    From: Pat
    Sent: November 16

    Hello Sandra:

    Great post on a very important issue! Here’s what I submitted:

    “A few weeks ago, a friend reported to me that she was told by a StatsCan official that she “had” to be interviewed and answer survey questions. In other words, it was legally mandatory that she meet with the StatsCan official and answer questions.

    My friend reported to me the personal nature of the questions being asked, including salary information, and I was surprised that this would be mandatory under our right to privacy under the Charter. I know that our Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the supreme law of the land and would trump anything you might have in your Privacy Act legislation.

    This has all come to light with the big banks’ refusal to hand over the personal bank records of 500,000 Canadians recently, after StatsCan requested them.

    I am completely against StatsCan’s making mandatory the answering of surveys, and I want you to look into it please. I believe that what they are doing is illegal, and contravenes the right to privacy of our personal information under the Charter.”

    Keep up the great work Sandra!!! Things are really getting out of hand, and we must be ever vigilant.


    —–Original Message—–
    From: Angela
    Sent: November 16

    It has long seemed to me that the use of the term “privacy” in the context of, e.g., “Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner” is a blatant misuse of the term. Not as bad as Orwellian doublespeak, perhaps, but getting there.

    And this problem of language, of semantics, steers people away from the central issue(s)… like a straw man argument does.


    From: Dave
    Sent: November 17

    Hi Sandra,

    Thank you for your continual work in reverting the tide of violations of rights of citizenry by government and corporations.

    I spent 15 or 20 minutes reading your post and clicking on the links without getting a picture of what is going on here with our privacy (other than the fact our government plans to bypass it) and only seeing a “reporting mechanism” which doesn’t respond to submissions.

    I finished with it feeling I’d been taken into the ocean and left to swim around.

    Is any simple avenue existing to learn the basic data on what the government plans and how one can take manageable action to help curb these governmental rights invasions?

    • From: Sandra Finley
      Sent: November 17

      Hi Dave,

      RE: Is any simple avenue existing to learn the basic data on what the government plans and how one can take manageable action to help curb these governmental rights invasions?

      You are usually the one providing elucidation to me!

      You might take a look at the following URL. I think we were never taught and didn’t encounter what was written about the life cycle of Governance.

      We are on a steep learning curve. You can’t go to sleep!!


      From Life cycle of Democracy. No, democracy is one STAGE in life cycle of Governance.


      All the philosophers believed that this cycling was harmful. The transitions would often be accompanied by violence and turmoil, and a good part of the cycle would be spent with the degenerate forms of government. Aristotle gave a number of options as to how the cycle could be halted or slowed:

      • Even the most minor changes to basic laws and constitutions must be opposed because over time the small changes will add up to a complete transformation.
      • In aristocracies and democracies the tenure of rulers must be kept very short to prevent them from becoming despots
      • External threats, real or imagined, preserve internal peace
      • The three government basic systems can be blended into one, taking the best elements of each
      • If any one individual gains too much power, be it political, monetary, or military he should be banished from the polis
      • Judges and magistrates must never accept money to make decisions
      • The middle class must be large
      • Most important to Aristotle in preserving a constitution is education: if all the citizens are aware of law, history, and the constitution they will endeavour to maintain a good government.

      Polybius, by contrast, focuses on the idea of mixed government. The idea that the ideal government is one that blends elements of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy.

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