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SCC rules that AB PIPA violates freedom of expression in the labour relations context; PIPA struck down

Jurisdiction: - Alberta

In Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner) v. United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401, 2013 SCC 62, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Alberta Personal Information Protection Act ("PIPA") violated section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and could not be saved under section 1 of the Charter.

Specifically, the Court stated:

37. PIPA imposes restrictions on a union's ability to communicate and persuade the public of its cause, impairing its ability to use one of its most effective bargaining strategies in the course of a lawful strike.  In our view, this infringement of the right to freedom of expression is disproportionate to the government's objective of providing individuals with control over personal information that they expose by crossing a picketline.

38.  This conclusion does not require that we condone all of the Union's activities.  The breadth of PIPA's restrictions makes it unnecessary to examine the precise expressive activity at issue in this case.  It is enough to note that, like privacy, freedom of expression is not an absolute value and both the nature of the privacy interests implicated and the nature of the expression must be considered in striking an appropriate balance.  To the extent that PIPA restricted the Union's collection, use and disclosure of personal information for legitimate labour relations purposes, the Act violates s. 2(b) of the Charter and cannot be justified under s. 1.

Further to the submissions of the Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta and the Attorney General of Alberta, the Court then ruled that PIPA should be struck down in its entirety. However, the Court also suspended the declaration of invalidity for a period of 12 months to give the Alberta legislature time to decide how best to make PIPA constitutional.