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David Goodis

April 4, 2022

Roz Bahrami

Not many lawyers can claim to have been present for the birth of a new field of law. David Goodis can claim to have helped build one.

In 1989, Goodis was a young lawyer working in personal-injury litigation, but found himself restless for something more challenging. That’s when he learned of an opening for legal counsel in a newly created Ontario government body: the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC), one of the first such offices in Canada. He made the leap.

“It was an incredible experience for a young lawyer,” he says. “We were front and centre in developing this new area of law, and in figuring out how to oversee it, interpret it and enforce it. It was a really brilliant and challenging opportunity.”

The Office itself had been established in response to the province’s then-new freedom of information legislation, and over the coming years, it was itself-and-centre as an explosion in information technology brought issues of privacy and data governance to the fore of the legal profession, and Canadian law.

As the office expanded from a few dozen staff to more than 100 today, Goodis moved up the ranks, by 2014 becoming Assistant Commissioner. Over the past three decades, his work with the IPC has been instrumental to shaping how Canadian law has responded to the privacy ramifications of transformative technologies, from police-worn body cameras to social media to the ubiquity of email and the internet.

“When our privacy laws were designed, cybersecurity wasn’t even a concept,” he says. “It’s a new concept for our statutes, and so the questions I’ve spent my career dealing with are really around how we can take the laws we have, and with them address some of the most fundamental emerging issues of our time.”

As a litigator, Goodis has represented the IPC before the Divisional Court, the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada, helping to interpret Canadian law for these 21st-century challenges. He’s also authored the Annotated Ontario Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Acts, the only textbook on privacy and access laws in Ontario.

He’s been an instructor at Osgoode since 2016, teaching Administrative Law, Privacy & Cybersecurity Law and Administrative Law in Canadian Common Law. Here at Osgoode, he says that one of the most important things he tries to instill in students is the understanding that the law isn’t static—especially today, as rapid technological change forced lawyers and lawmakers to confront new challenges more frequently than ever.

“There’s a need to be very aware of the underlying principles of law,” he says. “What are we trying to do, what are we trying to protect when upholding the good of society? How do you grapple with an outdated law that doesn’t seem to respond adequately to today’s world? That’s a difficult thing to confront, but so important for lawyers today, and such an exciting challenge.”

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