What would I advise the (former) Royals about the paparazzi if they were living in our province?
Ontario allows a person to sue another for damages for invasion of privacy.
This has not always been the case – it is a fairly new development in Ontario. Many assume a right to privacy, but only recently have our Courts recognized a legal right for a person to actually sue another for damages for infringing on privacy.
The legal protection is not called “invasion of privacy”, but rather “intrusion upon seclusion”.
Our Courts now recognize the following types of breach of privacy protections available to mostly everyone in Ontario:
• intrusion upon a person’s seclusion or solitude, or into that person’s private affairs
• public disclosure of embarrassing private facts about a person
• publicity which places a person in a false or misleading light in the public eye
• appropriation, for another’s advantage, of a person’s name or likeness
In terms of “intrusion upon seclusion” (i.e., breach of your privacy), to succeed in a lawsuit, you would have to establish:
• the other person’s conduct was intentional or reckless
• the other person must have invaded, without lawful justification, your private affairs or concerns
• a reasonable person would perceive the invasion as highly offensive causing distress, humiliation or anguish to you
In a recent Court of Appeal case that recognized this protection and ability to sue, the Court commented: “We are presented in this case with facts that cry out for a remedy. While [the Defendant] is apologetic and contrite, her actions were deliberate, prolonged and shocking. Any person in [the Plaintiff’s] position would be profoundly disturbed by the significant intrusion into her highly personal information. The discipline administered by [the Defendant’s] employer was governed by principles of employment law and the interests of the employer and did not respond directly to the wrong that had been done to [the Plaintiff]. In my view, the law of this province would be sadly deficient if we were required to send [the Plaintiff] away without a legal remedy.”
But there are limits to breach of privacy, too. For example, the Court of Appeal also held that if you are sensitive or unusually concerned about your privacy, you may be excluded from this protection.
Your privacy is protected in most, if not all, aspects of your life, including in the employment context, for example.
Your right of privacy is also not absolute. For example, it may conflict with other privacy rights, such as freedom of information and privacy legislation in effect in Ontario and Canada. If so, or if a conflict may exist, your privacy protection may be limited or compromised.
However, ultimately, your privacy is now recognized by Ontario Courts and you can sue for damages if it is violated, but only after careful consideration of the circumstances and consultation with your qualified litigation lawyer.