Thompson Rivers University

Lecture examines determining privacy, within reason

March 20, 2023

Dr. Chris Hunt, TRU Law professor

What is legally private? Can the police, without a warrant, access the records of your electricity consumption, train an infrared camera on your home or rummage through your garbage? Can they, without a warrant, search a vehicle you are a passenger in or use a sniffer dog to search your bags while in a public place?

Answering these questions turns on the interpretation of section eight of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which provides “everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.”

Thompson Rivers University (TRU) Faculty of Law Professor Dr. Chris Hunt explains that the Supreme Court of Canada has an “elaborate analytical framework for assessing the scope of this right.” Part of this process, he says, is proving that an individual had a reasonable expectation of privacy (REP) in the subject matter of the search or seizure. 


“The court has consistently stated that the REP inquiry must be approached from a normative perspective,” Hunt says. “But the emphasis on normativity conceals a variety of discrete principles which can lead to different analyses and inconsistent results.”

In particular, there is a tension between what scholars have termed a privacy approach, which asks ‘is the subject matter objectively private,’ and a surveillance approach, which asks ‘should citizens be free from such government intrusion’ if Canada is to remain a free and open society.” 

Hunt, appointed a tripartite professor by TRU in April 2022, delves further into the tension these two approaches have produced in the area of constitutional privacy rights at his Inaugural Professorial Lecture on Tuesday, April 4, titled Normative Tensions in Constitutional Privacy Rights Adjudication.

Members of the TRU and Kamloops communities are encouraged to attend the lecture, which is part of a series providing an opportunity to meet Professors and gain an understanding of their scholarship, research and teaching.

In-person seating is limited at the lecture, which will be held in the Scratch Café in the Culinary Arts Centre from 4:30 – 6 p.m. Please RSVP by Wednesday, March 29.

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