OTTAWA, ON – The Hon. Michelle Rempel Garner, Shadow Minister for Industry and Economic Development, and MP Jeremy Patzer, issued the following statement regarding alarming testimony delivered by the Privacy Commissioner Therrien to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science, and Technology:

“As we know, the Prime Minister has said that he will soon be “strongly recommending” Canadians use a contact-tracing app in light of the pandemic. However, the Privacy Commissioner stated that he has not been consulted by the government on any plans to adopt a contact-tracing app, although he maintained that his office is available and ready to provide such guidance to the government. This is absolutely unacceptable.”

“When asked if he was confident whether Canadians privacy laws would protect Canadians if a breach of a contact tracing app occurred, the Privacy Commissioner responded “No, I am not. My office has been talking for several years about the fact that our legal framework needs to be modernized and strengthened.”

“Prior to COVID-19, Canada’s privacy laws were woefully inadequate. Now that Canadians are being required to conduct business online, work and attend school from home; and now may be required to install a tracking mechanism on their cellphones, it is difficult to underscore the potential for disaster in the event of a leak or hack. Additionally, Conservatives are not confident that existing laws have any teeth in the event of a breach.”

“In today’s testimony, the Privacy Commissioner also revealed some shocking issues with the Liberal government’s inaction on strengthening our privacy laws in Canada. We have questioned Minister Bains at the Industry Committee about this very issue and the apparent gaps in our current legislation. Yet, the government has not acted to fix these outdated laws, which has become even more urgent in light of this pandemic.

“After hearing from the Privacy Commissioner today, we now know that Canadians have even more reason to be worried for their personal information under this government. While the Commissioner stated clearly that public health can and should be protected in such a way that respects individual rights, including privacy, we also heard Liberal MPs ask about an opt-out system for a contact tracing app. As far as Conservatives are concerned, it is hard to see how, in practice, that kind of approach is not an invasion – if not a violation – of privacy. If something like this moves ahead, it would be coming from a government with departments which, according to the Commissioner, have frequently disagreed with recommendations for better protecting privacy. The Prime Minister, who has expressed interest in tracing technology, still has a lot more explaining to do.

“Canada’s Conservatives will continue to demand transparency and action from the government on data privacy. With the Prime Minister’s plans to strongly recommend a contact tracing app, Canadians need answers on privacy now more than ever.”