No Invasion of Privacy Tort in Ontario

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice issued a significant judgment today in which Justice Whitaker held that Ontario law does not recognize a common law invasion of privacy tort. More specifically, he held that he was bound by the Court of Appeal’s 2005 judgment in Euteneier v. Lee, in which the Court commented that there is no “free standing” right to privacy in assessing a privacy-related claim by a police detainee that was based in negligence, assault, civil conspiracy and the Charter. Justice Whitaker said:

While it is certainly the case that in Euteneier, the plaintiff was not suing on the basis of an intentional tort, the extent to which privacy rights are enforceable at law was squarely before the court for the purposes of determining the content of the duty of care owed by the police to the plaintiff while in custody. In my view, the inescapable conclusion, put quite plainly by the Court of Appeal in paragraph 63 of that decision, is that “there is no ‘free standing’ right to… privacy… at common law.”

Justice Whitaker departed from the Court’s well-known decision in Somwar v. McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada. Justice Stinson decided Somwar shortly after the Court of Appeal decided Euteneier and did not consider it in finding (on a summary judgment motion) that it is not settled law in Ontario that there is no tort of invasion of privacy.

Alex Cameron acted for the defendant.

Jones v. Tsige, 2011 ONSC 1475.

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