Canadian Government Introduces Privacy Legislation

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OTTAWA/TORONTO --- The Canadian government introduced a privacy bill in the House of Commons this month that broadly followed lines laid down in a model code agreed upon by business, government and consumer groups in 1995.

The legislation was brought to the floor days before ministers from the 29 OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development)countries met in Ottawa to discuss e-commerce in which privacy plays a major role.

The Canadian Direct Marketing Association (CDMA)has long urged that the Canadian Standards Associations Model Code for the Protection of Personal Information should be used as the yardstick for any federal legislation.

"Our own code of ethics and code of practice is based on that document," Amanda Maltby, the CDMA director of communications, said. "On issues of content we will already be in compliance with the draft.

"Where the process gets fuzzy is during the period of debate that will follow introduction of the legislation, so we will have to be on guard against any amendments put forward to make sure the final version sticks as closely as possible to the Standards' draft," she said.

The bill will be referred to one of several committees in the Commons --- industry, justice or legal - since all these are issues touched upon in the draft, "so it'll be interesting to see which committee gets it."

The government hopes that the draft legislation can be enacted into law by the year 2000, but CDMA president John Gustavson said the effective date "depends on political priorities."

Ottawa, he said, "has had some indication from the EU that this draft will be adequate but I don't know if formal contacts between the government and the European Commission have been made as yet."

The EU's data protection directive is slated to go into effect on October 24 --- though in fact only a few countries will have completed the process of integrating the directive into national law by the due date.

The key issue the European legislation raises is the transfer of data from Europe to nations without "adequate" data protection law. Canada clearly hopes that introduction of privacy legislation before October 24 will suffice.

The government also wanted to have legislation in the hopper before the OECD ministerial meeting, which Canada is hosting. The e-commerce conference drew a host of notables.

The US delegation was led by Commerce Secretary William Daley, and Louis Gerstner Jr., IBM's president and CEO, was a keynote speaker. Conferees were to hammer out a series of proposals on future development of Internet trade.

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