Genealogy and the Law
The protection of individual privacy is central to genealogical research which is both ethically and legally sound. Each of the federal, provincial and territorial governments has adopted privacy laws to govern how government organizations protect personal information. The relevant Federal and Ontario Acts with their website links are the following:
Both of these acts will have a bearing on your genealogical research, assuming you will be attempting to access information from government institutions.
In addition to these two acts, the federal government has adopted the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which came into force in three phases beginning on January 1, 2001 and pertains to non-governmental organizations that hold personal information. Among other things the Act establishes the Privacy Commissioner of Canada as the ombudsperson for complaints. Here is how the Commissioner summarizes Part One¹ of the Act:
Organizations covered by the Act must obtain an individual's consent when they collect, use or disclose the individual's personal information. The individual has a right to access personal information held by an organization and to challenge its accuracy, if need be. Personal information can only be used for the purposes for which it was collected. If an organization is going to use it for another purpose, consent must be obtained again. Individuals should also be assured that their information will be protected by specific safeguards, including measures such as locked cabinets, computer passwords or encryption.²
PIPEDA will have a bearing on your genealogical research in two respects. First, it will govern conditions under which you may access personal information about your ancestors, information held by charitable, not for profit or religious organizations. Secondly, PIPEDA will provide the legal framework for protecting the personal information that you will submit as part of your citizenship application to the MNO. More information can be obtained on PIPEDA through the following link: http://www.priv.gc.ca/information/guide_e.cfm
- Wilkinson, Dr. Margaret Ann. Genealogy and the Law in Canada.
Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, 2010.
- Mills, Elizabeth Shown, editor. Professional Genealogy: a manual for researchers, writers,editors, lecturers and librarians.
Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001.