Smile for the Camera!

Cameras on picket lines

At the end of April, the Alberta Court of Appeal confirmed a lower court’s decision that Alberta’s privacy laws do not prohibit a union from distributing photographs of picket line activities, even if the distribution is for the purpose of identifying and pressuring replacement workers. The Privacy Commissioner originally determined that the activities breached privacy legislation, but the court decided that informing the public of picketing activities, discouraging business with the picketed employer, and picketing itself are all activities protected by freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Employers should now expect it to be standard practice for unions to photograph management, security staff, and replacement workers crossing picket lines. According to this decision, these photos can all be distributed on the internet and elsewhere for expressive purposes. It appears that despite steps legislators and courts are taking to protect the privacy of individuals, freedom of expression will trump these interests.