Supreme Court of Canada Confirms Students’ Reasonable Expectation of Privacy

Close Up Of Student Lockers In High School

On February 14, 2019 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that students have a reasonable expectation of privacy over their bodies in schools in the R. v. Jarvis decision.


Jarvis was a high school teacher who recorded female students doing ordinary school activities through a hidden camera inside a pen. The content he recorded focused on the upper body of the students primarily their chests.


This case was originally brought to court in 2015. At the time Jarvis was held not guilty of voyeurism because in order for voyeurism to be committed three elements must be present: (1) the act of secretly watching or recording, (2) the person being recorded must have had a reasonable expectation of privacy, and (3) the specific purpose for which the videos are recorded for example, someone recording for sexual purposes. The trial judge did not believe that the videos were recorded for a sexual purpose. The Ontario Court of Appeal also acquitted Jarvis although it was because they did not believe that the second element, of the subjects of the video having a reasonable expectation of privacy, was satisfied.

This past week, the Supreme Court had to decide whether students could have reasonably expected privacy from the type of secret recording Mr. Jarvis did, in the common areas of their school. All the judges at the Supreme Court agreed that Mr. Jarvis should be found guilty. They said that students reasonably expected not to be recorded by a teacher’s hidden camera at school. Chief Justice Richard Wagner said privacy is the “concept of freedom from unwanted scrutiny, intrusion or attention” and in order to understand the concept of privacy the situation must be assessed considering all factors of the case. The elements to take into consideration in this case are that Jarvis’ videos targeted a particular group; female students and largely focused on their breasts. Additionally, a relationship of trust exists between a student and teacher which was compromised by Jarvis’ actions. Lastly, Jarvis’ act of recording students violated the school board policy. Considering all these factors together, the student had a reasonable expectation of privacy.


The Supreme Court found all elements of voyeurism to be present in this case and therefore Jarvis was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to have committed voyeurism under s. 162(1) of the Criminal Code. 


This post was written by a CCLA-PBSC Rights Watch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.