Bill 64 – Quebec’s Privacy Modernization in an Era of Digital Transparency

quebec privacy

By: The AINS Team

In September 2021, the Quebec Commission on Access to Information (CAI) welcomed Bill 64, which focuses on amending individual privacy laws for consent, data protection, notice, and individual rights. With several key changes to the Private Sector Act, Canadian access professionals are anticipating a ripple effect across provincial reforms where privacy is given a second look. While there are no immediate plans to overhaul the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, Bill 64 is a new look at what Canadian legal systems may approach as a privacy policy for the future.

As the discussions in Quebec were sparking at the end of December, Canada released its first interim report on Access to Information review, as part of the commitment plan to maintain and improve citizen experiences with Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) requests. Concerns raised by the Information Commissioner and stakeholders are included in an outline of improvements through 2021 and 2022 that strengthen the ATIP community, including improvements to the processes, timelines, and services rendered that ultimately facilitate transparency.

A key theme among both Bill 64 and the interim report is the modernization and oversight of critical systems and empowering the Canadian people to their data. Under Bill 64, firms will be required to inform individuals of the purpose of data collection, the means, and of their right to access and amend the information. Firms must also disclose who has access to the information, as well as the contact information of the person in charge of personal information protection. As the private sector examines how to achieve compliance, Bill 64 raises questions within both the provincial and federal spheres.

Amending the Private Sector Act entails a complete overhaul with consent, administrative controls, breach reporting, website notices, and creating a foundation where privacy is the default. By September 2023, Quebec will have formed a new system that will inherently interact with others both inside and outside of the province. Neighboring provinces will likely enact similar reforms to protect data, which will likely make its way into the federal sphere.

These modernization efforts to access and privacy laws are part of a larger conversation surrounding data transparency. A key part of citizen trust comes from the ability to request information from their government, which empowers transparency and honest dialogues. Since Bill C-58 in 2019, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has been creating more methods to ensure that the information and privacy act remains relevant and creates efficient operations for any access requests. Quebec’s modernization efforts empower citizens to do the same with firms that may hold their information, enforcing strict controls for compliance. Requiring Privacy Impact Assessments and other measures to ensure compliance with all applicable privacy laws, Quebec is leading the province to a higher state of accountability.

Over the next several months, CAI will be publishing resources and tools that will guide firms to full compliance. Establishing a digital framework that adopts the values and growth spurred by this modernization will be critical to ensuring long-term success – not just for Quebec, but for any other provinces that adopt a similar model. The ATIP community has greatly benefitted from tools that empower transparency across every request for information, especially those capable of growing and adapting as policies shift. For example, adopting highly configurable case management software that handles the complete lifecycle of ATIP requests. The community continues to build through investments in training, consolidating systems, and improving access through intuitive user experience software. In the months going forward, Quebec should look to best practices and software solutions of federal ATIP programs as they continue to guarantee digital transparency and privacy into the future.

To track the progress of Bill 64, click here.