Canadian Court Rulings

Personal Information Protection

Alberta Personal Information Protection Act

Cases published to February 17, 2006
Click on a Case Name for full text (links off site).
2006 February 17
Grams Estate v. Maple Leaf Metal Industries Ltd., 2006 ABQB 146

In an action by the estate of a deceased worker against his employer for alleged negligence, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench was asked to rule whether personal information contained in enrolment forms for group insurance relating to other employees should be protected from disclosure because of the provisions of Alta PIPA.

The Court held that because many of the forms filed in evidence in this lawsuit disclosed highly personal health information of non-party employees, they should be sealed and thereby excluded from public inspection. The Court arrived at this conclusion “based on the provisions of s. 4(3)(f) and s. 21 of the Personal Information Protection Act, notwithstanding s. 4(5)(b), which permits the information to be made available by law to a party to a legal proceeding.” In this connection, the Court referred to the Alberta Court of Appeal decision in Innovative Health Group Inc. v. Capital Health Region, 2006 ABCA 7, where portions of a court file containing information about confidential informants were ordered to be sealed, albeit without any reference to Alta PIPA.

2005 December 15
Encana Corp. v. Douglas, 2005 ABCA 439

Reversing the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, the Alberta Court of Appeal unanimously held that once there has been technical compliance with section 21 of the Canada Business Corporations Act (“CBCA”), which provides that a corporation must provide access to its securities register to shareholders, creditors and certain other persons, that corporation must provide access to an applicant. If a corporation provides the securities register to an applicant in accordance with section 21, it has fulfilled its obligations under both the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (“PIPEDA”) and under the Alberta Personal Information Protection Act (“Alta PIPA”). However, in circumstances where a corporation has reason to believe that information in the securities register will be used for an improper purpose, a corporation is entitled to seek directions from the court as to whether it must comply with the obligation to provide access. “Suppose, for instance, that when requesting the securities register, the applicant says that he wants to use the information to solicit investments from wealthy individuals for another enterprise. In such a case, it may be proper to seek directions from the court as to whether it is relieved of its duty to provide access to the register.”[ paragraph 23]

The Court of Appeal held that privacy legislation does not modify the obligation under section 21 of the CBCA, which places the onus of protecting against misuse of the personal information of shareholders not on the corporation, but on the applicant for access to the register.

The Court of Appeal noted that statutes in different jurisdictions limit shareholder access to records including the securities register on different terms. Accordingly, the purpose of disclosure defined by each statute must be carefully examined

2005 October 7
IMS Health Canada, Ltd. v. Information and Privacy Commissioner, 2005 ABCA 325

The Alberta Court of Appeal held that the Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner, whose jurisdiction includes the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, RSA 2000, c. F-25, the Health Information Act, RSA 2000, C. H-5 (“HIA”)and the Personal Information Protection Act, RSA 2003, c. P-65 (“Alta PIPA”), was required to produce to IMS all documents which touch on the issue of his decision in January 2002 to conduct an investigation and to issue an order on March 19, 2003 prohibiting Alberta pharmacies from disclosing prescriber’s names to IMS without the consent of the prescriber.

In these proceedings commenced by IMS on April 17, 2003, the company seeks judicial review alleging, among other grounds, that the Commissioner erred in law and/or jurisdiction in conducting an investigation and issuing an Order limited to disclosures by pharmacists and pharmacies to IMS and/or that either Alta PIPA or the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, S.C. 2000, c. 5 (“PIPEDA”) had supplanted the HIA thereby making the Commissioner’s Order unreasonable.

Under PIPEDA, the federal Privacy Commissioner previously conducted an investigation and on October 2, 2001 ruled that PIPEDA did not prevent pharmacies from disclosing prescription information to IMS. Documents disclosed in this litigation in Alberta revealed that the Alberta Commissioner’s decision to investigate IMS was triggered by that decision of the federal Commissioner.

2005 October 5
Telus Communications Inc. v. Telecommunications Workers Union, 2005 ABQB 719

In this proceeding, Telus unsuccessfully sought to vary an injunction granted in July, 2005 to restrain the TWU from picketing the homes of all Telus employees.

The Albert Court of Queen’s Bench noted that in support of its application, Telus had submitted: “that breaches of privacy have occurred. Telus submits it is reasonable to infer that that the picketers had obtained the addresses of the residences at which they attended from union records. Telus states that TWU is bound by Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act, S.A. 2003, c. P-6.5 (“PIPA”). In general terms PIPA prevents the use of personal information collected by an organization without consent.”

Rejected this submission and others, the Court stated that “[e]ven if a breach of PIPA can be considered an illegal act, there is no evidence the addresses were obtained from union records. It is equally plausible the addresses were obtained from the phone book or from the exchange of personal information by employees before the strike.” In these circumstances, the Court held that there was no prima facie case of a breach of privacy.”