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Canadian government announces new Digital Charter

Digital Charter

On May 21, 2019, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced the introduction of Canada’s new Digital Charter. This blog post summarizes the highlights of Minister Bains’ announcement and the principles of the Digital Charter.

The Minister stressed that in the new digital economy, data drives business. Opportunities for efficiency are all around us, but they come with challenges. At the heart of these challenges is the fundamental question of trust: How can Canadians trust that their data is being used to improve their lives? He further stated that innovation cannot happen at the expense of privacy and data security, and it is only by building a strong foundation of trust that Canada can reach its full innovative potential. 

The Digital Charter contains the following 10 principles, based on Canadian values, against which all future government policies, programs and legislation will be tested:

  1. Universal access
    • All Canadians will have equal opportunity to participate in the digital world and the necessary tools to do so, including access, connectivity, literacy and skills.
  2. Safety and security
    • Canadians will be able to rely on the integrity, authenticity and security of the services they use and should feel safe online.
  3. Control and consent
    • Canadians will have control over what data they are sharing, who is using their personal data and for what purposes, and know that their privacy is protected.
  4. Transparency, portability and interoperability
    • Canadians will have clear and manageable access to their personal data and should be free to share or transfer it without undue burden.
  5. Open and modern digital government
    • Canadians will be able to access modern digital services from the Government of Canada, which are secure and simple to use.
  6. A level playing field
    • The Government of Canada will ensure fair competition in the online marketplace to facilitate the growth of Canadian businesses and affirm Canada’s leadership on digital and data innovation, while protecting Canadian consumers from market abuses.
  7. Data and digital for good
    • The Government of Canada will ensure the ethical use of data to create value, promote openness and improve the lives of people – at home and around the world.
  8. Strong democracy
    • The Government of Canada will defend freedom of expression and protect against online threats and disinformation designed to undermine the integrity of elections and democratic institutions.
  9. Free from hate and violent extremism
    • Canadians can expect that digital platforms will not foster or disseminate hate, violent extremism or criminal content.
  10. Strong enforcement and real accountability
    • There will be clear, meaningful penalties for violations of the laws and regulations that support these principles.

As a part of his announcement, Minister Bains revealed that he and the Government of Canada have taken, or will be taking, the following actions to implement the principles of the Digital Charter:

  • Introduce policy proposals reforming Canada’s private sector privacy law, PIPEDA.
  • Minister Bains has written to the head of the Competition Bureau to ensure that the bureau has the tools necessary to promote competition and create a healthy environment, especially for small business, so they can continue to innovate.
  • With the advice of the new Canadian Statistics Advisory Council, Minister Bains will undertake a review of the Statistics Act to ensure Canadians can trust the way their data is handled by the National Statistical Agency.
  • The Standards Council of Canada will launch a new Data Governance Standardization Collaborative to better coordinate the development and compatibility of data governance standards in Canada.
  • The Government of Canada will update the Privacy Act, and examine frameworks for open banking, all consistent with the principles under the Digital Charter.

In closing, the Minister stressed the importance of working together, calling on businesses to collaborate with government on these issues. More information about the Digital Charter is now available at:

By Michael Scherman and Marissa Caldwell 

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McCarthy Tétrault LLP

McCarthy Tétrault is a Canadian law firm that delivers integrated business law, litigation services, tax law, real property law, labour and employment law nationally and globally.McCarthy publishes a series of blogs to share information with companies to help them comply and manage their businesses. On the Inside Internal Controls blog we will share some of those blog posts sharing their expertise among others, in the areas of Competition/Anti-trust, Corporate and Commercial Law, Intellectual Property, Privacy, Environmental Law, Technology and Litigation. Read more here
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