FIPA at RightsCon 2018 in Toronto

It has been a busy few months on many fronts in the FIPA office. Earlier this month, FIPA’s Program Director, Joyce Yan, attended RightsCon 2018 in Toronto. This

“Smart Cities, Smart Decisions: The Personal Data of Smart City Citizens.” From left to right: Bassem Awad (Deputy Director for IP & Innovation at CIGI), Bianca Wylie (Co-Founder of Tech Reset Canada), David Goodis (Assistant Commissioner, Policy and Corporate Services, IPC), Teresa Scassa (Canada Research Chair in Information Law and Policy, University of Ottawa), and Kurtis McBride (CEO/founder of Miovision).

international conference hosts the world’s business leaders, technologists, engineers, investors, activists, human rights experts, and government representatives where they come together to build partnerships, shape global norms, showcase new technologies, and confront challenging issues at the intersection of human rights and technology. This year, there were over 2000 participants representing over 700 companies/governments/organization from 115 countries, and it featured more than 450 panels/sessions.

Opening ceremonies. From left to right: Brett Solomon (executive director of RightsCon), Melanie Joly (Heritage Minister), Ramy Raoof (Research fellow at Citizen Lab), and Kathy Brown (President and CEO of Internet Society).

The panels that Joyce attended included ones on surveillance, the federal ATI system, the right to be forgotten in Canada, smart cities, and the roll-out of the GDPR. They were all very informative and featured important conversations, many of which will be continued at this year’s Information Summit.

Not only were the panels interesting, this was a great networking opportunity where we got to connect with other civil society groups across the country. While FIPA’s mandate is primarily geared towards FOI and privacy issues in BC, we have been actively involved in federal ATI and privacy issues over the years as well. Because of this, we have an extended network of partners and collaborators across the country, and this was a great chance to touch-base and check in with many of them.

An Update on FIPPA Public Engagement Consultation

The BC Ministry of Citizens’ Services public consultation on freedom of information and privacy rights in BC closed on April 9, 2018.  We would like to thank you all citizens and organizations those who supported FIPA in the consultation period with blogs and submissions.

The public consultation expanded from two categories to a total of 7 categories:

  • Welcome,
  • The FOI Process,
  • Protecting your Privacy,
  • Getting access to the information you want—Without an FOI Request,
  • Fees for FOI Requests,
  • Reporting Privacy Breaches, and
  • Offences & Penalties in FIPPA,

showing the ministry was reacting to the public’s concerns. Your participation helped in already making a difference.

In addition, the ministry set up a special phone number so citizens wanting participate but had difficulty participating by computer could participate in the consultation.  A joint ministry/GCPE (Government Communications and Public Engagement) (20+ Ministry FOIP analysts) has been meeting with a selection of FOI requesters including FIPA’s president Mike Larsen.  The interviews were about an hour in length and focussed on the practical dimensions of FOI such as, preparation, filing and interactions and release packages in BC.  This provided an opportunity to reinforce FIPA’s formal position on reforms to FIPPA such as the overuse of ‘cabinet’ and ‘policy advice’ exemptions.

FIPA’s Executive Director had the opportunity to meet with Director of FOI requests Branch and A/Executive Director, Privacy, Compliance & Training Branch to review the current training for new staff to government.  The training was seen as detailed and effective, but it was the follow-up helplines that staff can call to ask specific questions after the training will support and improve the accurate recording of information within government.

To date there have been many positive aspects of the FOI review, but it is not resulted in changed legislation and BC FIPA is continuing to assert the importance that change needs to happen.  A poll conducted last year by Ipsos Canada for FIPA showed British Columbians are extremely supportive of a number of measures including creating a duty to document, penalties for violation of the law and closing loopholes for education subsidiaries.

Best practices in whistleblower legislation: Upcoming research project

Carroll Boydell, an instructor in the Department of Criminology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, is working with BC FIPA on a new research project that will look at best practices in whistleblower legislation.

We are working on a new project that will identify and analyze best practices in legislation that governs whistleblowers’ rights and protections.

Typically, whistleblowers are employees who refuse to commit illegal or wrongful acts, or who report instances of illegal or wrongful acts committed by fellow employees or employers. Though the typical goal of whistleblowing is to uncover and cease wrongdoing, whistleblowers often face retaliation in the form of hostility from superiors, being wrongfully terminated from their jobs, or by having violence perpetrated against them.

Whistleblower acts are statutes intended to protect employees from retaliation as a result of disclosing institutional wrongdoing. Until recently, limited protections were offered to whistleblowers in BC. However, the Public Information Disclosure Act, recently passed through the BC Legislative Assembly, now outlines procedures for how BC government employees may engage in whistleblowing and affords protections against reprisal for reporting wrongdoing.

In addition to BC legislation on whistleblower protections, we will analyze legislation from other Canadian provinces, with a critical look at protections offered for whistleblowing on misconduct related to transparency and access to information in the public sector.

Finally, this paper will examine the limits and scope of the protections offered to whistleblowers and discuss best practices for laws and policies that guide those who seek to reporting wrongdoing.