An important case concerning the privacy of individuals who seek to enforce their rights at administrative tribunals will be heard this week.
This case could directly affect the privacy of individuals at the Human Rights Tribunal, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, and the Landlord and Tenant Board, among other administrative tribunals. It could also set a precedent that could affect many other administrative boards and tribunals across Canada that maintain sensitive personal records as part of their proceedings.
ISAC, ARCH and HALCO will be intervening in the case as a coalition to defend the privacy of individuals appearing before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and the Landlord and Tenant Board. ISAC will be presenting oral argument for the coalition when the case is heard this week.
Background on the case
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) requires that the Ontario government protect the personal information of individuals. It requires that an individual’s personal information can only be disclosed either with their consent or where that information does not constitute an unjustified invasion of personal privacy. Along with most government ministries and agencies, this Act also applies to administrative tribunals in Ontario, including the Human Rights Tribunal, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and the Landlord and Tenant Board.
The Toronto Star is relying on the freedom of expression guarantee contained in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms to challenge the application of FIPPA to administrative tribunals in Ontario. The Star’s argument is that freedom of expression and freedom of the press require that the public have access to administrative tribunal records as the default. This case could set an important and far-reaching precedent about the government’s ability to maintain the privacy of medical and other personal records filed by individuals when they pursue administrative proceedings.
Why we’re intervening
At issue in this case is the privacy of low-income and marginalized persons with disabilities – including people receiving social assistance benefits – who pursue their legal rights at administrative tribunals, such as the Social Benefits Tribunal, the Human Rights Tribunal and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.
While the Star is not seeking access to Social Benefits Tribunal records, ISAC is concerned with the potentially far-reaching impact of this case and the chilling effect it could have on the access to justice rights of marginalized persons appearing before administrative tribunals.
ISAC, HALCO and ARCH will argue that, without FIPPA privacy protections, vulnerable people may choose not to access their fundamental legal rights for fear that their private medical and other information could be disclosed.
The coalition’s factum can be found here: CV - 17569061 - ARCH HALCO ISAC - Interveners Factum - Toronto Star V AG.
Attend the hearing this week!
The case will be argued this week, April 4-6, 2018 starting at 10:00 am, at:
Superior Court of Justice
130 Queen Street West
UPDATE – THE COURTROOM HAS BEEN CHANGED TO:
393 University Avenue