Elections Canada and Privacy
Elections Canada takes the privacy of electors very seriously. We are committed to transparency in everything we do.
Why we collect personal information
We mainly collect personal information to help you exercise your right to vote, be a candidate or work during an election. We have authority to collect personal information under legislation, including the Canada Elections Act and the Financial Administration Act. We collect personal information from many sources, including:
National Register of Electors
We maintain a permanent, continually updated database of Canadians who are qualified to vote in federal elections and referendums called the National Register of Electors. It contains the name, address, gender and date of birth of each elector along with a unique identifier to help track changes to the elector's registration record. Elections Canada uses the information in the Register to create lists of electors at the beginning of federal elections and referendums. We take precautions to ensure that all personal information is kept secure and is used for authorized purposes only.
Canadians may opt out of the National Register of Electors. If they choose to do this, they do not lose their right to vote.
The names of all people who voted are included on the final lists of electors. Names on the final lists of electors are added to the Register, except for those people who had previously requested to opt out of the Register or who asked that their information not be included in the Register when they registered to vote.
Elections Canada's privacy obligations
Elections Canada is subject to the Privacy Act. The Privacy Act states that personal information under the control of a government institution should be disclosed only in very limited circumstances. The Canada Elections Act requires Elections Canada to share the voters lists with political parties and states how the lists are to be shared and used.
We take security very seriously and work hard to always keep your personal information secure. We work closely with government security partners to be as secure as possible and develop our practices based on their expert advice.
Our cyber security program is based on directives and best practices established by federal security agencies. It is continuously monitored. Controls are in place to ensure that only certain Elections Canada staff can access systems containing personal information. All headquarters staff are screened and trained on privacy and security practices that are aligned with Government of Canada security policies, as are field staff who have access to sensitive personal information. Elections Canada contributes to election security by also implementing "security by design"—that is, making security a foundational part of every new IT system or process that we develop. We are training employees and field staff on how to safeguard information.
Correcting or accessing your personal information
You can update or correct the information we have about you through our online voter registration service or by contacting us. You can also request your personal information through our Access to Information and Privacy office. For more information, go to Access to Information Request.
Political parties' access to the personal information of electors
The Canada Elections Act states that Elections Canada must provide voters lists to members of Parliament, registered and eligible political parties, and candidates. These voters lists, also known as lists of electors, contain the names, addresses and unique identifier numbers of voters.
Political parties often supplement the basic information they get from the voters lists with information about voters derived from other sources.
Elections Canada provides political parties, members of Parliament and candidates with Guidelines for Use of the Lists of Electors. The guidelines explain how recipients are allowed to use the lists and reminds them of the importance of safeguarding confidential information at all times. Although not a legal requirement, the guidance encourages political parties to adhere to principles normally found in privacy laws such as consent, access and protecting personal information through adequate safeguards.
Among other measures, the guidelines state that political parties should:
- Be transparent by clearly explaining what personal information will be used for, whether it will be shared with others and for what purpose.
- Obtain meaningful consent for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information and use the information only for purposes individuals have consented to. For example, parties should not assume consent to add personal information collected through social media to party databases simply when people interact with a party by liking a post on social media.
- Provide individuals with access to their information and the opportunity to correct it.
- Keep personal information only as long as necessary to satisfy the purposes for which it was collected, and then destroy the information securely. For example, information collected for a specific petition or cause should not be reused for general political messaging.
The CEO has previously encouraged political parties to take steps to better protect the personal information of Canadians and issued guidance jointly with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. The guidance outlines the legal obligations political parties are required to follow in the wake of recent changes to the Canada Elections Act. These obligations require federal political parties to develop specific privacy policies, submit them to Elections Canada and publish them online.
Privacy protection principles for political parties across the country
The federal Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) do not apply to political parties. British Columbia is the only Canadian jurisdiction that has legislation that expressly applies to political parties in the province through the Personal Information Protection Act.
What personal information we collect from electors
We collect personal information such as name, address, date of birth and gender to update the National Register of Electors. This information is in the personal information bank (PIB) Voter Registration and Identification. More information on how we collect, use and share your personal information is available here.
We also collect additional personal information from any elector who votes by Special Ballot during an election or referendum. The information collected is in the PIB Special Voting Rules.
How we collect personal information from electors
We collect personal information from you directly at the polls and when you register to vote. We also collect personal information if you vote by special ballot and send us an Application for Registration and Special Ballot form and supporting documentation. In addition, we continually receive information from many sources to update the National Register of Electors.
What elector personal information we share with external parties
In accordance with the Canada Elections Act, we share information from the National Register of Electors, such as names, addresses, gender, dates of birth, and unique identifier numbers, with external parties including electoral agencies and the Commissioner of Canada Elections. You can ask us to not share your information with other electoral agencies.
The Canada Elections Act requires us to provide the voters lists (containing electors’ name, address and unique ID only) to political entities (members of Parliament and registered political parties) every year and during an election (to candidates and political parties).
What personal information we collect from political participants
We collect personal information from political participants. This information is in the following personal information banks (PIB):
How we collect personal information from political participants
We collect candidate information mainly through the nomination paper and the electoral campaign return.
We also collect personal information from political entity officials when they apply to register a political party.
Please see the Political Participants page for further information.
What political participant personal information we share with external parties
We share political participant personal information with external parties in a few ways:
- The names of all registered candidates are available on our website and searchable by postal code through the Voter Information Service tool.
- When candidates consent on the Nomination Paper, we can also share their personal information with the House of Commons and the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
- Information such as contributions and information from financial returns are available in a searchable database on our website.
- Section 541 of the Canada Elections Act states that a person may inspect certain political financing and other documents.
The personal information of Political Participants may be shared with the Commissioner of Canada Elections, and information about officials may be recorded in the Registry of Political Parties, the Opinions, Guidelines and Interpretations – Registry, the Registry of Third Parties, or the Registry of Electoral District Associations. In addition, personal information may be shared in accordance with the Privacy Act, e.g., to third parties for the purpose of conducting public opinion research, including surveys.
What personal information we collect from election workers
We collect personal information from returning officers and other election workers. This information is in the Returning Officers and Electoral Workers personal information bank (PIB).
Names for potential election officers and returning office staff are provided from many sources, depending on the position. For more information, please go to the Employment page on our website.
How we collect personal information from election workers
We collect personal information from election workers and potential election workers through various channels, including the application process.
What election worker personal information we share with external parties
With the applicant’s consent, we share the following personal information with the elections administrator for their province or territory of residence: name, address, telephone number(s), the selected position(s), previous experience, Canadian citizenship status and the fact that they will be at least 16 years of age in the next 12 months.
The list of Field Liaison Officers (FLOs) is public information available on our website.
The list of Returning Officers (ROs) is public information available on our website.
In addition, personal information may be shared in accordance with the Privacy Act, e.g., to third parties for the purpose of conducting public opinion research, including surveys.