Contributions Program 2023-24
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
1. Purpose of this guide
This guide is designed to help applicants prepare a project proposal for funding under the Contributions Program of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC). Specific instructions for completing the application form as well as information about the assessment process are provided.
1.1 Eligible applicants
Only not-for-profit organizations – including consumer, voluntary and advocacy organizations, educational institutions, and industry & trade associations – are eligible for funding.
1.2 Non-eligible applicants
- For profit organizations
- Political parties and organizations involved in partisan political activity
- Current or former public office holders or public servants who are not in compliance with the Conflict of Interest Act, the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service, the Lobbying Act, or any other relevant guidelines, principles or codes relating to conflict of interest or post-employment
1.3 Application date
The deadline for receipt of applications is February 10, 2023, at 11:59 PM (your local time).
Please forward your application to the following coordinates.
Email is preferred: firstname.lastname@example.org
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Care of: Contributions Program
30 Victoria Street
Applicants should note that all information requested in the Guide, Application Form and Schedule B Project Budget must be received by the Office before an application is considered complete.
Only complete applications received at the above noted coordinates on or before the Program deadline will be considered.
Important: Applications are deemed to have been received by the OPC on the date they are post-marked; the date they are delivered to a messenger or specialized courier agency; or the date they are sent by email. If you do not receive a confirmation of receipt for your proposal, it is recommended that you check with our Office to ensure that we have received your application.
1.4 Contributions Program Budget
The budget for the OPC's Contributions Program is $500,000 annually. We are making the entire amount available as part of the present call for applications.
We will award up to $50,000 to any single project and a maximum of $100,000 per recipient organization. See Section 2 below for more information on the theme for this year’s call.
Please note that the program’s budget may be cancelled, reduced or increased if funding levels are changed by Parliament.
2. Contributions Program
The program’s objectives are to:
1) Strengthen existing privacy research capacity in academic and not-for-profit sectors
2) Generate new knowledge and support the development of expertise in selected areas of privacy and data protection
3) Increase awareness and understanding among individuals and organizations across Canada of their privacy rights and obligations
4) Promote uptake and application of research results by relevant stakeholders
2.2 Eligible projects
The Contributions Program is administered under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which governs the collection, use or disclosure of personal information by organizations in the course of commercial activities. Accordingly, only research or public awareness proposals that address privacy issues in the private sector will be considered. Proposals that touch on issues falling within the federal public sector can be submitted, provided that the primary focus of the proposal deals with the private sector.
2.3 This year’s theme: “The future is now! Assessing and managing the privacy impacts of immersive and embeddable technologies”
This year, we are interested in receiving proposals that examine the privacy impacts of immersive and embeddable technologies. By “immersive” we mean technologies that merge the physical and virtual worlds, and by “embeddable” we refer to technologies that are capable of reaching deep inside an individual and deducing – or interpreting – their very essence.
In recent years, we have witnessed astounding technological advances that could have a profound impact on privacy rights. Many technologies claim to enable the recognition of emotions or the inference and derivation of information about a person’s private thoughts.
Behavioural analytics illustrates our point. It brings together several immersive and integrable technologies that can impact privacy, such as keystroke recording, gait analysis, voice analysis and others, to identify behaviours that form a unique set of unconscious actions related to a person.
Emotional artificial intelligence (AI) is another example. Relying on behavioural analysis, emotional AI interprets data captured through such means as analyzing and tracking gaze, gait, heartbeat, facial expressions, and skin moisture to infer a person’s emotional state.
The emergence of the “metaverse” is another case in point. In the metaverse, a person will eventually be able to use a virtual or augmented reality headset to “enter” or “immerse themselves” in a virtual world linking all sorts of digital environments. The creation of the metaverse, however, carries significant privacy risks, as it could lead to greater collection and sharing of personal data of Internet users than we have today.
While these technological advances pose privacy concerns, statistical inferences drawn from a person’s online activity can also reveal unspoken thoughts and personality traits.
With this in mind, here are some of the questions that could be avenues of research or public outreach for funding applicants in this year’s call for proposals:
- To what extent do behavioural analysis, emotional AI and emotional analysis pose real or unique risks to privacy?
- What are the risks to privacy and cognitive freedom posed by advances in neurotechnology?
- What are the privacy risks of the metaverse? In particular what are the risks associated with the collection, use or sharing of personal data on the metaverse?
- How does the metaverse change the privacy landscape? Does it represent a new paradigm in the fight for privacy?
- How can immersive and embeddable technologies enable individuals to thrive while protecting their privacy?
- How can we ensure that everyone enjoys the vast benefits of these emerging technologies, especially vulnerable populations such as youth, while mitigating privacy risks?
- What emerging technologies are likely to advance rapidly in the medium to long term (5‑10 years) and what unique privacy challenges can they pose? How can regulators prepare for these challenges?
- How should privacy legislation and policies address the risks and challenges that arise from these technologies?
These are all issues that could be addressed under this year’s theme. But there are many more, and we hope that applicants will come up with many more innovative and forward-thinking research or public education projects under this theme.
That said, as in past years, we do not want project proposals submitted to us to be limited to this theme alone. We will therefore also accept proposals for research or educational projects that address other cutting-edge issues that advance the protection of privacy in the private sector.
Finally, regardless of the topic of the proposal, we encourage all applicants to incorporate an intersectional analysis into their project and to include strategies that could help reduce inequalities between people.
2.4 Public awareness and knowledge translation
In addition to research, funding is also available to eligible organizations to conduct privacy-related, public education and awareness raising initiatives. We especially encourage research applicants to integrate knowledge translation activities as part of their project proposals. Knowledge translation is the process by which theoretical research findings are transformed into outcomes that end-users can apply in practice. Knowledge translation activities may be built into your research proposals, or you may further build upon past OPC-funded research.
Examples of public awareness or knowledge translation activities that we would consider funding include:
- Workshops or conferences aimed at disseminating research results to stakeholders
- Innovative and interactive online approaches for disseminating research findings and raising public awareness of privacy issues
- Privacy guidelines for parents to use in discussions with children
- Education curricula for teachers to use with students
- Content for journalists and specialized media to report on privacy issues impacting Canadians
- Toolkits for consumer protection organizations to use in better supporting consumers to make informed, privacy-sensitive choices
- Privacy best practices for professional associations to promote among their members
- Educational games, videos, and documentaries aimed at the general public or more targeted audiences
We welcome all public awareness and knowledge translation proposals aimed at achieving the objectives of the Contributions Program, as set out in section 2.1 above and other sections of this guide.
2.5 Encouraging partnerships between academia and civil society
The program has made good progress over the past years in funding a greater diversity of research applicants. The OPC wishes to continue actively engaging civil society groups through the program, as these groups can increase public awareness of research findings.
To this end, we continue to encourage universities and other research groups to develop new partnerships with civil society organizations as part of their proposals. For example, universities could collaborate with public education groups, or advocacy associations could partner with research groups. During the assessment process, additional points will be allocated to proposals that put forward plans for such partnerships.
2.6 Work previously done under the program
The Contributions Program seeks to advance the creation and translation of new knowledge on emerging issues related to privacy promotion and protection in the commercial sector. Accordingly, applicants are encouraged to get a feel for the previous projects previous projects completed or currently being completed under the Contributions Program when developing their proposals. A full list of Contributions Program-funded projects completed since the program’s inception in 2004 is available on our website, as well as a list of the projects currently under way as a result of last year’s call and which will be completed in March 2023.
2.7 Projects must be national in scope
The mandate of the OPC is to oversee compliance with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which is the federal, private sector privacy law. Consequently, the OPC will examine only wide-scale projects or projects of national application that are relevant to the federal sphere. Projects that examine issues or address concerns that are exclusively or predominantly local, provincial or foreign in scope will not be considered eligible for funding.
2.8 Projects must include detailed methodology
The proposals that are submitted under the Contributions Program can be qualitative and/or quantitative in nature. In both instances, the OPC seeks to fund proposals that demonstrate sound methodology. In order for the OPC to evaluate a proposal’s methodology, the applicant must provide a detailed description of the means by which they seek to achieve their desired results. Where applicable, applicants should provide a detailed list of stakeholders they intend to survey/interview and the survey method and instruments they intend to use.
2.9 Duration of projects
The Contributions Program is structured to provide funding for eligible expenses that are incurred within the fiscal year during which the funding has been awarded – that is, between April 1, 2023 and March 31, 2024. Incurred expenses must have been paid by the funding recipient before they are invoiced to the OPC. Exceptionally, the OPC may fund projects that extend beyond the end of a fiscal year (that is, March 31, 2024) if the proposal persuasively demonstrates why the project requires more time to be completed and should be funded beyond the typical one-year period. For multi-year proposals, applicants are requested to submit work plans that cover the entire duration of the project.
2.10 Funding amount available and allowable expenses
As indicated in section 1.4, the maximum budget for the present call is $500,000.
The maximum amount that applicants may request and that can be awarded to a single research or public awareness project or knowledge translation initiative is $50,000.
The maximum amount that can be allocated to any single recipient organization is $100,000.
Funds may be used only for expenses directly related to the activities of the project. These activities must be reflected either in the original budgetary submission, or via subsequent approved budgetary adjustments. Eligible expenses would include:
- Salary and benefits for members of the project team, inclusive of project administrators, researchers and research assistants, students, postdoctoral fellows, technical support, etc.
- Administrative costs, translation, secretarial assistance and publication costs
- Contract costs for expertise not available in-house or work that cannot be performed in-house (e.g., surveys)
- Other eligible costs including travel (not to exceed government travel regulations), workshops, materials and supplies, and communications
The OPC will not support any expenses incurred prior to, or after completion of, the funding period stipulated in a contribution agreement. The OPC will not support any expenses that have not been paid by the recipient before they are invoiced to the OPC.
Other ineligible expenses that will not be funded under the agreement include the purchase of buildings, land, vehicles and most other major capital costs.
Indirect administrative expenses (that is, overhead) should be limited to no more than 15 per cent of the total project expenses incurred under the contribution agreement.
Contributions awarded to an applicant are subject to the terms of the Contribution Agreement signed by the applicant and the OPC. Funds must be spent only on the project and cannot under any circumstances be diverted to any other use. Expenses associated with the project are subject to audit.
For full details, see the Costing Memorandum in Schedule B – Project Budget.
3. Completing the application
The following information corresponds to each section of the Application Form. Applicants should provide answers to all questions and include any required detailed information in an appendix to the application form.
3.1 Identification of applicant
- Provide the full name of your organization along with any abbreviations frequently used, as well as the section name or division name
- Previous name, if changed in the last year
- Address, telephone numbers (with extension), fax numbers, e-mail addresses, and web site addresses, where applicable
The mailing address must be complete and clearly indicate the location of the organization (e.g., room number, floor, street number and postal code). Should a post office box be designated as the official mailing address, please provide this information as well.
3.2 The proposal
Applicants must provide a project proposal which, once agreed to by the OPC, will serve as a basis for the contribution agreement and cash flow. We do not provide a form for project proposals as such; you must write the proposal yourself, which must contain all the information below, in the following order:
- Project title: At the top of the first page or on a cover page, clearly indicate the title of your project
- Basic Information: Then indicate the name of your organization, its postal address, billing address, telephone number, facsimile number, the email address of your authorized representative, and the names of principal employees and project administrators. Also, provide contact information for the principal researcher (where applicable), the person responsible for administering the project, and the finance/accounting contact person
- One-page summary: A text summarizing the project—this summary can be used in the contribution agreement
- Legal status: An attestation/confirmation that your organization is a not-for-profit organization
- Organizational background: Background of the organization including its mandate, objectives, and accomplishments
- Previous financial support: An indication of any previous financial support received by your organization in the last five years from the OPC including the amount, the year when the funding was provided, the purpose of the funded activity, and the results achieved
- Detailed project description: A detailed project description including intended goals and objectives, identification of the target groups for the proposed project, anticipated results and expected benefits for Canadians in terms of the acquisition and application of new knowledge in the area of privacy and data protection
- A listing of expected project deliverables must also be provided
- Work schedule and monitoring: A schedule and work plan detailing the activities to be undertaken to support the achievement of project objectives, and monitoring activities to ensure the successful completion of the project.
- Budget: A detailed budget for the project showing amount(s) being requested from the OPC and other proposed sources of revenue, including in-kind support. In presenting the budget to the OPC, applicants must use the form provided with this guide, namely Schedule B — Project Budget. Furthermore, in their proposal, applicants must provide detailed information explaining and justifying each amount entered in Schedule B — namely for salaries and benefits; travel expenses; telecommunications; contractual services; materials and supplies; rentals (includes equipment and meeting rooms); and other expenses
- Community, sectoral, or industry involvement: Where appropriate, an indication of the level of community, sectoral or industry involvement (commitment, endorsement, scope and level of participation, co-operation and volunteer involvement)
- Provincial/territorial support: Where appropriate, an indication of the degree of provincial, territorial and municipal support for the project (cash and/or in-kind)
- Knowledge translation activities: A plan for disseminating project results and enabling their uptake and application by relevant end-users (e.g., targeted stakeholders, organizations, industry associations, individuals, consumers, communities, educators, journalists, and/or the general public)
- Acknowledgement of OPC funding: An indication of how the project will acknowledge the financial support (and where relevant, other contributions) of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to the project
Applicants are required to answer the questions in the application form regarding the Conflict of Interest Act, the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service, and the Lobbying Act.
3.4 Other sources of funding
Applicants may seek other sources of funding for proposed projects. Applicants are required to disclose all sources of funding for a proposed project when applying for funding from the OPC. This includes financial assistance (grants, contributions, etc.) from all levels of government, anticipated or received, that is related to the proposed project. This should also include applications for financial assistance which are still pending.
In the event that total government assistance (including provincial and municipal assistance) received for the project exceeds the cost of the project, the Recipient will repay His Majesty the King in Right of Canada on a pro-rated basis (based on the OPC's share of total government assistance received).
4. The assessment process
4.1 Assessments based on merit
Each request for financial support will be reviewed to determine the quality, relevance and timeliness, feasibility and expected outcomes/benefits of the proposed project. Applicant organizations and applications for funding will be reviewed in accordance with the general Program objectives as well as the specific eligibility criteria as outlined in this guide.
In assessing proposals, the OPC may, where appropriate, consult with other federal departments, provincial and territorial governments and other privacy commissioners or ombudsmen. The OPC may also involve independent, external reviewers from academia or the not-for-profit sector.
4.2 Screening criteria
In order to proceed to full assessment, all proposals submitted to us must meet these two (2) screening criteria:
- Eligible Applicants: Only not-for-profit organizations – including consumer, voluntary and advocacy organizations, educational institutions, and industry and trade associations – are eligible for funding.
- PIPEDA: Only proposals that address privacy issues relevant to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) will be considered. PIPEDA governs the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by private sector organizations in the course of their commercial activities. Eligible proposals must therefore relate to the commercial sector that falls under PIPEDA. Proposals that touch on issues within the federal public sector can be submitted, provided that the primary focus of the proposal deals with the commercial sector under PIPEDA or the interface between that sector and the public sector. (See section 2.2 above for more information.)
Projects that are screened in based on the above-mentioned conditions will then be assessed on the basis of the following assessment criteria:
4.3 Assessment criteria
General quality and competencies (25 points)
- Overall quality (10 points)
- Knowledge and understanding of relevant privacy issues (5 points)
- Integration of interdisciplinary perspectives and approaches (5 points)
- Relevant partnerships and collaborations (5 points)
Innovation (30 points)
- Novelty of issue(s) being examined or solution(s) being proposed (15 points)
- Creativity of methodological and/or knowledge translation approach (15 points)
Feasibility (15 points)
- Realistic budget (5 points)
- Soundness of work plan (5 points)
- Manageable timelines (5 points)
Expected Benefits and Outcomes (30 points)
- Expected positive impact on Canadians’ privacy rights (10 points)
- Effectiveness of knowledge translation strategy (10 points)
- Relevance and timeliness of expected outcomes (10 points)
4.4 Past Instances of Non-ComplianceThe OPC may choose not to assess or fund projects from applicants who, as past funding recipients of our program, have been in default of their contribution agreements. This includes but is not limited to instances where applicants who were past Program recipients were late in submitting their deliverables, submitted incomplete or unsatisfactory deliverables, or were derelict in posting their projects to the Internet.
5. Reconsideration process
The OPC is determined to ensure the integrity of its merit-based process for assessing funding applications. Reconsideration of negative funding decisions may be requested only by the applicant named in the application. Applicants may seek reconsideration of a funding decision only where evidence suggests that a palpable error occurred during the initial review process, and that this error resulted in a negative funding decision for their application.
5.1 Eligible requests for reconsideration
Palpable errors are marked departures from the policies and procedures set out in this guide, and without limiting the generality of the foregoing may include:
- A failure by OPC staff to provide the required information to the assessors of the proposal
- A decision not to recommend funding based on a conclusion that is contrary to information provided by the applicant in the proposal
The OPC will not reconsider funding decisions based solely on:
- differences of opinion pertaining to eligibility;
- differences of opinion based on the merit, that is, the relative strengths or weaknesses – of a proposal;
- disagreement over the interpretation or analysis of the proposal;
- the qualifications or number of reviewers who assessed the proposal.
Applicants seeking further information about the review of their application are encouraged to communicate with the OPC Contributions Program at email@example.com as a first point of contact. If, after the initial discussion with Program staff, the applicant still wishes to request formal reconsideration and has the necessary evidence of a palpable error as outlined above, the applicant can submit a formal request to the OPC using the email to the address above.
The request should be based on a compelling demonstration that a palpable error occurred in the initial assessment process. The OPC will not consider requests for de novo reassessment of the merits of a proposal.
Request for reconsideration must be emailed no later than 60 days after the date of transmission of the funding decision by the OPC to the applicant. Supporting documents not included in the original application may not be submitted with the reconsideration.
In keeping with the principles of merit-based application assessment, the OPC reconsideration process will seek to involve individuals who were not involved in the original management or review of the application.
The OPC will advise appellants of results by email. Decisions on reconsiderations are final.
6. Control procedures
6.1 Contribution agreement
On approval of a request for a contribution, a detailed contribution agreement will be drawn up and signed by the recipient and the OPC. A contribution agreement is an agreement between the recipient and the OPC regarding the amount of contribution awarded, in consideration for specific deliverables to be completed.
By accepting a contribution, the recipient agrees to carry out the funded project, to be responsible for realizing all deliverables specified in the contribution agreement, and to be accountable for the amounts received. As consideration, the OPC agrees, subject to conditions stipulated in the contribution agreement and to renewal of the program by the Minister, to fund all or part of the project's costs.
Important – As specified in the agreement, the recipient cannot make material changes to the scope of a project—for example, significantly changing or dropping a deliverable, or reallocating significant amounts of money from a budget line item to another—without the prior written consent of the OPC.
6.2 Reporting requirements
By signing a contribution agreement, your organization agrees to submit progress and financial reports, as specified in the agreement for the duration of your project.
The OPC reserves the right to publish the name of the recipient, a summary of the project, as well as the amount of the contribution awarded in any manner it deems fit including, but not limited to, posting on the OPC's web site, publication in the Main Estimates, and so forth.
Recipients of OPC funding under the Contributions Program may also be surveyed after the completion of the project about further related work or follow-up activities in an ongoing effort to evaluate the impact of the research and the value of the Contributions Program.
6.3 Research ethics and integrity
Where applicable, applicants are required to adhere to the principles and responsibilities of researchers as set out in the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research (2021), and if their proposed project involves human participation, the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans.
6.4 Method of payment
Payment will be made in accordance with the approved cash flow in the contribution agreement, as well as the work plan and the agreed-to deliverables, and will be consistent with Treasury Board guidelines for cash payment under the Policy on Transfer Payments.
Final payment of a hold back, not exceeding 20 per cent of the total contribution, or recovery of surplus, if necessary, will be made when the recipient has satisfied all the requirements of the project and upon receipt and acceptance by the OPC of financial statements.
Payments will be made on the basis of documented claims for reasonable eligible costs incurred and paid, to be submitted by recipients as per the agreement. The Privacy Commissioner is unable to make any payment to recipients prior to receiving an invoice for eligible costs that have been incurred.
Payment will be processed using a direct deposit to the recipient’s bank account, and the recipient will be asked to provide banking information to the OPC for deposit purposes.
Contributions are normally awarded for specific projects on an annual basis. In the case of projects extending over more than one fiscal year (April 1 to March 31), payment is subject to the appropriation of funds by Parliament, and satisfaction of review and reporting requirements by the Recipient, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the contribution agreement.
6.5 Public acknowledgement and recognition
The recipient shall acknowledge the OPC's contribution to the project in all materials, be they written, oral or electronic, used to describe the project or resulting from the project. The Privacy Commissioner, or a designated representative of his Office, will be given the opportunity to participate in public announcements related to the project.
6.6 Audit requirements
In accordance with its contribution agreement, the recipient shall keep proper accounts and records of revenues and expenses received in connection with the funded project, for at least six years after completion of the project. Such accounts and records shall be open to audit and inspection by the OPC to ensure compliance with the terms of the contribution agreement. The OPC may make copies and take extracts at all reasonable times for a period of six years after completion of the project.
The OPC may request at any time that recipients provide satisfactory evidence to demonstrate that all eligible costs claimed have been paid.
6.7 Withholding of payments
Where for any reason,
- a recipient is not entitled to the contribution,
- the amount of the contribution exceeds the amount actually expended,
- a recipient is late in submitting a deliverable as per the terms of the contribution agreement,
- a recipient fails to submit one or more deliverables as per the terms of the agreement,
- a recipient submits deliverables that are incomplete or unsatisfactory in relation to the terms of the contribution agreement,
- a recipient does not provide in their deliverable(s) appropriate value for money, as assessed by the Commissioner in evaluating the quality of the deliverables submitted to him.
The Commissioner may, at his discretion, withhold payment or a portion of the total amount awarded to the recipient for the project, or require the recipient to repay all or part of the advances or interim payments to the OPC, those amounts being a debt due to His Majesty the King in Right of Canada.
7. Language policy
Project deliverables may be produced and/or submitted in the official language of the recipient’s choice. Organizations working at the national level and receiving financial assistance from the OPC are encouraged to provide services in both English and French and to foster the recognition and use of those languages especially in areas of significant demand recognized by the Office.
8. Access to information and privacy
The OPC is subject to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. The Access to Information Act provides a public right of access to government records. The Privacy Act provides individuals with a right of access to their own personal information and protects that information from unauthorized disclosure. Some of the information you provide to us in this process may be accessible under the Access to Information Act; this does not include personal information as defined in the Privacy Act.
For more information on what this entails please contact the OPC’s Access to Information Director at 819-230-8672.
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