Case Report – B.C. Court strikes privacy breach claim brought against raiding union

On November 23rd, the British Columbia Supreme Court issued a judgment striking out a privacy breach claim brought by an incumbent union against another union engaged in a so-called membership raid.

The incumbent (the HEU) argued that the raiding union (the BCNU) breached the British Columbia Privacy Act and the British Columbia Personal Information Protection Act by misusing personal information collected from its members in executing a “high pressure campaign.” The BCNU moved to strike the claim. It argued (1) the HEU had no standing to sue on behalf of its members (whether named or not); and (2) PIPA does not support a civil cause of action.

The Court agreed with both arguments. It concluded that both the Privacy Act and PIPA grant an individual right of privacy that cannot be asserted by a union on behalf of its members: “This is a radical defect; the plaintiffs have no entitlement to bring an action based on a violation of another person’s privacy.” On whether PIPA supports a civil cause of action, it said:

PIPA provides an adequate administrative scheme. I find support for this in the provisions of PIPA generally and specifically in s. 57. Section 57 clearly shows that the Legislature considered the issue of civil claims; it only included a right for an individual to advance a claim against an organization for damages after the commissioner has made an order. This has not occurred here.

The Court also struck claims based on fraudulent misrepresentation and deceit, leaving the HEU action to proceed on the basis of interference with contractual and economic relations.

Facilities Subsector Bargaining Association v. British Columbia Nurses’ Union, 2009 BCSC 1562 (CanLII).

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