Procedural Lapse Leads to Loss of Jurisdiction by the Alberta Privacy Commissioner

I hope that this is not a new theme emerging: privacy proceedings in limbo.

Last week I wrote about how the recent vacancy of the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s office in BC could have placed all pending files on hold. Now, this week, we have a decision [PDF] from the Alberta Court of Appeal that suggests the Commissioner there, Frank Work, may have lost jurisdiction over at least 180 pending cases.

The legislation in issue requires the Commissioner to follow certaint timelines, which can be extended by the Commissioner. From the Personal Information Protection Act:

50(5) An inquiry into a matter that is the subject of a written request referred to in section 47 must be completed within 90 days from the day that the written request was received by the Commissioner unless the Commissioner

(a) notifies the person who made the written request, the organization concerned and any other person given a copy of the written request that the Commissioner is extending that period, and

(b) provides an anticipated date for the completion of the review.

Some lower court decisions have found that the Commissioner would lose jurisdiction for not complying with the timelines, while other authorities have not found such a drastic effect from such a lapse. But in any event, the decision means that the Commissioner may have lost jurisdiction in many cases currently sitting on his desk.

According to an interview with the Edmonton Journal, Commissioner Frank Work says that he intends to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

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