Charter Protection for Union “Cyber Picket Line”

Unions Seeking Charter s.2b protection for recording people at pubic picket line demonstrations and broadcasting their identities over the internet without consent or knowledge for Union purposes or Union journalism.

The United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401 (UFCW) sought judicial review of a decision by an Adjudicator for the office of the Privacy Commissioner under the Personal Information Protection Act, S.A. 2003, c. P-6.5 (PIPA). UFCW alleged that the provisions of PIPA that prohibit the Union from recording (either by photo or video) its lawful picket-line is an infringement of its s. 2(b) rights under the Charter[1].  Madam Justice Goss of the Alberta Court held that Alberta PIPA violates section 2(b) of the Charter because it doesn’t give organizations wide enough latitude to record and disseminate images of people at public social or political events.

The court allowed that the publication of people, their faces and identity was largely used by unions to intimidate, ridicule, and mock, those persons who crossed picket lines or scabs.  Though this did not warrant Charter protections, the court held PIPA too restrictive against “union journalism”  The court seemed to protect “union journalism” and “cyber picket lines” under the Charter 2b freedom of speech, it postulated that the dissemination of images (of people, faces, identities) to ridicule, mock and intimidate can and should be restrained by applicable privacy legislation.

The court seemed to give broad allowances for union journalism and invasions of personal privacy to advance the unions interests. The court raised an important issue; how much government can restrict the expression of information about things people do in public as a means of promoting and protecting personal privacy.

The Court Held; (A) The exception in s. 4(3)(c) of PIPA that applies only to an organization that has a journalistic purpose and no other purpose infringes s. 2(b) of the Charter and is not justified under s. 1 of the Charter; and (B) The provisions in PIPA that prohibit an organization from collecting, using and disclosing personal information collected at a public, political demonstration, like a picket line, infringe s. 2(b) of the Charter and are not justified under s. 1 of the Charter.  The Court declared that the phrase “and for no other purpose” in section 4(3)(c) of PIPA violates the freedom of expression protected under section 2(b) of the Charter, that this violation is not demonstrably justified under section 1 of the Charter; and this portion of section 4(3)(c) of the Act is therefore of no force or effect.

Questions;  This seems to have opened to the door in the name of freedom of speech and union journalism to create a permanent internet based Cyber picket line that can be used to intimidate people into supporting the unions positions, and those who must cross picket lines.  People don’t volunteer to attend picket lines, as union members they are required to attend.  Further private citizens going to and from work or such do not volunteer either, they are merely bystanders, passersby, yet they can be immortalized on a cyber picket line for the purposes of union journalism.  Even so-called scabs and management are not volunteers to crossing pickets lines.  Most people will avoid picket lines.  So why would a union have a right to violate a persons privacy and personal identity without that persons consent or knowledge for union journalism.  Journalism in name only, since it appears more likely to be union propaganda, union marketing, union politicking?

The second question, if a private corporation in the name of corporate journalism, recording images of private citizens, without their knowledge or consent as they walked by corporate premises or inside corporate premises, and posted these images online as part of a corporate website would that be allowed.  I doubt it.

Though this is a small decision, there are serious privacy and personal identity issues imbedded. Union speech seems to gained greater protections at the expense of a private persons privacy rights, identity rights, identity ownership, even their political rights and freedoms.

Original Blog Courtesy; Paul Broad

Case Citation; United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401 v. Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner), 2011 ABQB 415 (CanLII).


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