The Privacy Act and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada

CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

The Privacy Act plays an important role in guiding the federal government’s relationships with individuals. An additional objective of Privacy Act modernization is to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada as there are opportunities for the Privacy Act to acknowledge, affirm and empower Indigenous individuals, communities and governments.  

While this public consultation offers an opportunity for all Canadians, including Indigenous people, to respond to some ideas for amending the Privacy Act, ongoing discussions with Indigenous governments and organizations have revealed some ways in which the Act may uniquely impact Indigenous individuals and communities. As well, addressing the control by Indigenous peoples over their information and data is an important step toward reconciliation. The Department of Justice Canada continues its discussions with Indigenous governments and organizations to gain further insight on some issues that have been highlighted through earlier discussions, such as: 

  • Reflecting the diversity of Indigenous governments: Consideration is being given to replacing the current definition of “aboriginal government” with a more flexible definition that reflects the diversity of Indigenous governance models.

  • Information-sharing partnerships: In recognition of the unique nature, sensitivity and amount of personal information that federal public bodies may hold in relation to Indigenous people, a modernized Privacy Act might facilitate information-sharing with Indigenous governments and their institutions for a broader range of purposes than those currently recognized under paragraph 8(2)(f) of the Act. Addressing the need for such sharing of information with Indigenous governments and their communities is one way to help Indigenous peoples move towards self-governance.

  • Continued disclosures for claims research: Recognizing that advancing historical claims can require and justify the disclosure of personal information, the Privacy Act allows the federal government to disclose personal information for the purposes of “researching or validating the claims, disputes or grievances of any of the aboriginal peoples of Canada.” One issue to explore is the disclosure of personal information for such purposes.

  • New governance mechanisms to support consultative approaches: The protection of and access to the personal information of Indigenous people can raise particularly complex considerations. Indigenous organizations and governments want to exercise control over decisions involving the personal information of their members. New mechanisms and tools may help address these considerations.

  • Special Indigenous interests in communal privacy protection: Since individual and communal Indigenous privacy interests can be deeply intertwined, this raises the question of whether the Privacy Act could reflect the unique concept of communal privacy interests. 
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