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Public and private institutions across Canada are scrambling to ensure they are compliant with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) which takes effect on July 1, 2014. Widely described as the broadest legislation of its kind in the world, fines for non-compliance can be up to $10 million. 

CASL, also known as bill C-28, has been in the works for a few years and Canada is the last G20 country to pass anti-spam legislation, which is part of international agreements. It’s soon to become law, and there are no exemptions for school boards.

Basically you need to have consent before you send commercial electronic messages (CEM) such as field trips, lunches or RFP invitations (1). CASL inexplicably provides business organizations with implied consent to send CEMs (where an existing relationship exists), denying this exception to educational institutions (2).

Simply being a parent or student at a school does not appear to give school or districts implied consent to send commercial electronic messages. A message sent to a student or parent regarding a hot lunch payment will be on the wrong side of the law come July if you haven’t received consent.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce (3) advises the following information in any electronic message:

  • The name of the person sending the message, and identify on whose behalf the message is sent, if different;
  • Contact information (mailing addressing and either a phone number or an email address) of the senders; and,
  • A mechanism that allows the recipient to easily unsubscribe at no cost.

The latest Scholantis Newsletter tool (4.4) on your website includes everything you need to keep your email communications compliant with the new law.

So what to do? If you don’t already have it, get consent. Getting express consent to send CEMs needs to become standard practice, and part of your policies and procedures. After July 1st you’ll be restricted in sending electronic messages to ask for consent. You’ll also need a record of this; the onus is on you to prove you have consent.

Ultimately we’re not lawyers so we’d advise you to take the time to understand the legislation and seek professional advice. Unless you want to revert to physical mail and phone calls, you need to determine your risks and make a plan to address them in your district.

Here’s a few articles you’ll find informative: