Category Archives: Nikta Shirazian

Canada’s Statutory Privacy Torts in Commonwealth Perspective

by Chris D. L. Hunt* and Nikta Shirazian**

(2016) Oxford U Comparative L Forum 3 at ouclf.iuscomp.org | How to cite this article

In the last decade common law privacy torts have emerged in Ontario, England and New Zealand, and three recent law reform commissions in Australia have issued reports recommending similar actions in that country. Four Canadian common law provinces have had statutory privacy torts for decades (British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland). These statutes offer little guidance as to when a privacy interest will arise and the case law does little to illuminate. Despite dozens of decisions, few are at the appellate level, and none have engaged in a detailed assessment of the factors relevant to assessing privacy claims in the tort context. In this paper, the authors undertake a thorough analysis of the Canadian case law, uncovering the principles latent in the existing jurisprudence, and critically examine them in light of the dynamic developments occurring in other parts of the Commonwealth. After exploring the structure and scope of these statutory torts in Part One, the authors propose that courts employ a reasonable expectation of privacy test, turning on the existence of 10 contextual factors that are elucidated in Part Two. The authors recommend that these factors be analyzed from two perspectives—the extent to which they serve to identify a privacy interest, and the extent to which they suggest an intrusion was sufficiently objectionable to warrant recognition of a prima facie claim. While the recommendations in this paper are often directed at a Canadian audience, they are informed by the comparative experience abroad and hence could be of real interest to jurists throughout the Commonwealth concerned with the principled operation of privacy torts.

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