Alberta’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Frank Work, issued a news release regarding the recent Court of Appeal of Alberta decision in Alberta Teachers’ Association v. Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner). In the case, the Court held that the Information and Privacy Commission has no authority to extend investigation time limits under the Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA”) after the statutory time limit has expired. Further, if the Commissioner extends the time in an inquiry process within the time limit, he must provide reasons for the extension, and his decision will be subject to judicial review. The Court noted that “[b]lanket or routine extensions seem unlikely to be regarded as reasonable if they cannot also be justified in the specific circumstances of the case.” PIPA is provincial legislation that governs the use of personal information by private sector organizations in Alberta.
In the news release, Commissioner Work expressed concern that, as a result of the Court of Appeal decision, many Albertans “will lose the privacy remedies they thought they received in response to their complaints.” In addition, the decision “simply creates another avenue of judicial review” and “[f]or the poor applicant or complainant, all you are making them do it start all over again.” The news release indicates that Commissioner Work will seek leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Commissioner also will request that the Legislative Assembly of Alberta amend PIPA to address issues raised by the decision.