Tag Archives: freedom of expression

Labour’s freedom of expression trumps privacy, rules court

By Deborah Jones

A union’s right to freedom of expression trumps people’s privacy rights in union disputes, Canada’s top court ruled today, in a constitutional case involving complaints against a union that photographed workers crossing picket lines.

The Supreme Court of Canada decision overturned privacy legislation in the province of Alberta – though it gave legislators a year to fix it.

Excerpt of the ruling:

The central issue is whether (Alberta’s  privacy act) achieves a constitutionally acceptable balance between the interests of individuals in controlling the collection, use and disclosure of their personal information and a union’s freedom of expression. 

This appeal requires the Court to determine whether Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act unjustifiably limits a union’s right to freedom of expression in the context of a lawful strike. At issue is whether the Act achieves a constitutionally acceptable balance between the interests of individuals in controlling the collection, use and disclosure of their personal information and a union’s freedom of expression.

The dispute in this case arose when the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401 recorded and photographed individuals crossing its picket line for use in its labour dispute. Several individuals whose images were captured complained to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta that the Union’s activities contravened the Personal Information Protection Act, S.A. 2003, c. P-6.5 (“PIPA”), which restricts the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by a range of organizations. Those individuals were successful, prompting an application for judicial review on the basis that the legislation infringed the Union’s right to freedom of expression under (the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms)…

In our view, the legislation violates (a section of the charter) because its impact on freedom of expression in the labour context is disproportionate and the infringement is not justified…

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