THE ADVOCATE V O L . 7 5 P A R T 5 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 7 671
restricted from seeing alternative viewpoints during the sensitive periods in
her cognitive development, the result might be a different and arguably
stunted person. What if Galileo had believed that Earth was flat when he
was a child and was never exposed to evidence to the contrary? Would he
have similarly contributed to the truth-seeking endeavour of humankind in
the same way? Perhaps not.
Ability to Reinvent Oneself
Consider also the impact of the right to be forgotten on identity. The
concept of identity is inextricably linked to self-fulfillment and selfactualization.
In Europe there is a well-established notion of “personality”.
The underlying concept is the idea of free will, or the ability to choose one’s
own personhood, instead of having others determine one’s identity.49 The
Supreme Court of Canada has held that physical and moral autonomy
are essential to the “expression of an individual’s unique personality or personhood”
and “the freedom to engage in one’s own thoughts, actions and
The “revisability principle” provides that the ability of individuals to
revise their identities throughout their lives is crucial because it preserves,
among other things, autonomy and, in turn, freedom.51 This principle posits
that “where an individual cannot engage in revision, she becomes increasingly
alienated from and disloyal to her own life plans, goals, and projects,
even as she continues to pursue them. This is a weighty restraint on freedom”.
52 If reinvention is key to identity formation, and identity is inextricably
linked to self-fulfillment and self-actualization, then the forgetting by
others of a person’s former identities may well advance that person’s right
to express him or herself freely in the endeavour to flourish as a human
Many international legal instruments recognize children’s right to development
as fundamental and in need of protection.53 The Supreme Court of
Canada has held that identity development is key to self-fulfillment and has
emphasized the importance of children’s need to explore their identity in a
line of cases regarding freedom of expression.54 A large piece of children’s
identity-formation process involves their experimentation with different
versions of themselves. Through this process, they create different representations
of themselves, reveal these representations to the outside world,
and then gauge the world’s reactions.55 In response to the world’s reactions,
children in turn make revisions to their identity and how they perceive
themselves, thus creating a feedback loop.56 The reliance on others’ forgetfulness
is a key part of this revision and reinvention process. A fixation on
previous versions of a child’s identity would hinder its revisability.