In a brief judgment, Ball J of the BC Supreme Court has stated that there is no tort of invasion of privacy under the law of British Columbia: Demcak v Vo, 2013 BCSC 899. The judge noted that a breach of privacy is actionable under BC’s Privacy Act, but concluded that the legislation did not offer a remedy on the facts before him.
The plaintiffs were former sub-tenants of a residential property in the City of Richmond. A complaint was made about the use of that property to Richmond which then inspected the property. Written notice of the impending inspection had been given by the owner to both the head-tenant and the sub-tenants. Following the inspection, Richmond ordered that recreational vehicles owned by the sub-tenants be removed from the property. They failed to do so.
In order to comply with the City’s order, the head-tenant gave the sub-tenants a notice to end tenancy. The sub-tenants and the Defendant Dinh, the landlord, were the only parties present at a hearing before the Residential Tenancy Branch regarding the dispute. The hearing officer concluded that the order to end the tenancy was lawful and valid, and that the landlord was entitled to an order for quiet possession. The hearing officer ordered the plaintiffs to vacate the property.
The plaintiffs then applied for a review of that decision and the original decision and order were confirmed.
The plaintiffs commenced the action which was the subject of this judgment. The claim included, in part, an allegation that the inspections of the property, including both the residence and the vehicles were conducted in breach of the plaintiffs’ privacy. The Courts stated as follows on a motion for summary judgment:
“On the facts of the case now before me, the inspections of the property, including the residences or vehicles thereon, were authorized by law. These inspections are outside the scope of the tort created by s. 1 of the [BC] Privacy Act. As there is no common law tort of privacy in BC, the claims contained in para. 13 of the present notice of civil claim are without legal foundation and cannot hope to succeed. The claims in that paragraph are dismissed.”
In light of the ruling of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Jones v Tsige, 2012 ONCA 32, which recognised a new tort of ‘invasion upon seclusion’ in that province, it is unlikely that Demcak v Vo will remain the last word on the subject on the west coast.