Bill C-27 (Privacy Reform) Did Stop Being Stalled and Advance by One Debate

Progress for Canada’s privacy reform bill (Bill C-27) has been upgraded from dead stop to snails pace.

For roughly half a decade, I’ve been reporting on how Canada’s privacy reform has been largely missing despite widespread support for this. No matter how many high profile data breaches or misuse of personal information incidences there are, the Canadian government continued to hit the snooze button and not really do anything about the absolutely unacceptable situation Canada’s privacy laws and enforcement are in.

Last month, I posted a story talking about how the privacy law continues to be stalled in this government. At the time, all signs point to this eventually just dying on the orderpaper with the Canadian government only blowing the dust off this promise for the third time and promising to move forward with it when the next election hits.

Coincidentally, multiple privacy commissioners launched an investigation into TikTok to determine what they do with people’s personal information. Sadly, this kicked off the great TikTok moral panic with the media and the government wildly claiming everything from TikTok handing all of your personal information to the Chinese government, election interference, being a massive security risk, and pretty much every other thing they could make up.

None of the allegations was ever backed up by evidence, of course. Just vague accusations. The Canadian government ironically urged Canadians to make their own informed choice while refusing to tell the public what makes TikTok a unique privacy and security risk. What’s more, TikTok itself is equally in the dark as Canadians are as to what the heck the Canadian government is going on about with this moral panic. The large Canadian media, being the large Canadian media, obliviously never really questioned any of it – instead focusing on scaring Canadians into believing that TikTok was this monolithic threat towards them.

Critics, along with pointing out the complete lack of evidence in this debate from those calling for a TikTok ban, rightfully pointed out that if Canada wanted even the slightest bit of credibility on this debate, then they would have moved forward with privacy reform a long time ago. Instead, the Canadian government has shown that they really could care less about the privacy and security of Canadians with the constant delays and foot dragging on privacy reform. Moving forward with privacy reform would have, at the very least, showed that the Canadian government is working with substance on these debates.

These questions on why the Canadian government hasn’t been moving forward with privacy reform really painted the Canadian government into a corner. There really was no excuse why the Canadian government has barely even bothered with privacy reform. What’s more, privacy reform would, at least, allow for the chance to set across the board standards on how companies handle personal information among other things. So, once again, the Canadian government vowed to move forward with the bill. Unsurprisingly, we just added that promise to the list of promises the Canadian government made in the past about moving this bill forward.

Unlike so many out there, we operate in the world of reality. So, when a development happens that changes things, even if it goes against our skepticism, we are all too happy to report on it. We are one of those extremely rare voices that don’t actually mind being proven wrong. This, more or less, did happen this week. Last week, Bill C-27 made an incremental step forward with an additional debate occurring in second reading at the House of Commons level. The debate means that the total debates in second reading went from two to three. The March 7 debate can be read on the Hansard.

So, because of this development, we can no longer say, for now, that the legislation is sitting at a complete standstill. We can upgrade the status from completely stalled to a snails pace. So, why do we say “snails pace”? Simply put, the first debate in second reading occurred on November 4th. The latest debate happened on March 7th. So, about 4 months to get to this point. By the same standard, Bill C-11 had it’s first debate on February 16th of last year. It had six debates before moving on to the next stage. The last debate hit on May 12th of last year. So, with roughly the same time span, Bill C-11 had twice the number of debates and moved on to the next stage already.

Both bills are very much comparable because both had versions in the last government. Bill C-11 was known as Bill C-10 in the last government. Bill C-27, coincidentally enough, was named Bill C-11 in the last government. Arguably, privacy reform has actually been in the process for a substantially longer period of time, so really, Bill C-27 should have moved much more quickly. Instead, the opposite is, thus far, true. So, really, it’s all about priorities: abolishing freedom of expression or protecting the privacy and security of Canadians? Obviously, shredding the Canadian Charter wound up taking the priority here.

So, yes, we are happy to admit that the bill is no longer stalled. Really, that is good news. We’re talking about a really low bar being set here, but the government has finally managed to lazily crawl over that bar. We’ll see if this tiny amount of forward momentum will continue to carry through or if it will go back to being abandoned again. At any rate, congratulations to the Canadian government: you got off your lazy butts and did something for Canadians for once on tech related issues. It’s astonishing at just how hard this was for you, but progress is progress, no matter how incremental it is, right?

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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