Public Video Surveillance by the State: Policy, Privacy Legislation, and the Charter

  • Derek Lai Student-at-law, Alberta Court of Appeal and Field Law in Edmonton Alberta, then returning to the Edmonton Police Service as an in-house legal advisor.


This article explores the growing phenomenon of public video surveillance and how the law should protect an individual's right to privacy while providing for effective law enforcement. The author considers the positive and negative effects of surveillance and recent technological advancements that currently challenge courts, legislatures, and police forces. Canadian case studies from Kelowna and Edmonton are utilized to examine the role of federal and provincial privacy legislation, while the Supreme Court of Canada's evolving interpretation of s. 8 of the Charter is canvassed through an examination of jurisprudence involving public surveillance technology. Ultimately, the author concludes that public video surveillance is necessary but the law must control its use. Video surveillance via automated collection would resolve the "effectiveness versus privacy" policy debate by minimizing the potential for abuse.