FIPA finally gets Ministry of Health records after two year battle

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NEWS RELEASE
December 15, 2014

FIPA finally gets Ministry of Health records after two year battle

 

VANCOUVER, December 15, 2014—The records requested by the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association in 2012 regarding contracts and other records related to the mysterious Ministry of Health data breach case have finally been released. They are now available on the BC FIPA website.

https://fipa.bc.ca/foi-release-ministry-of-health-data-breach-final-release/

FIPA had requested:

  • Data sharing and other agreements involving the Ministry and four named individuals;
  • Correspondence between the Ministry and the four named individuals relating to the agreements, particularly correspondence about delays or impediments to accessing data for research purposes;
  • E-mails, memos or other notices to staff from the Ministry’s Assistant Deputy Minister of Information Management/Information Technology Division regarding delays or impediments to the release of data to researchers; and
  • Any policy changes relating to release of data to researchers.

“It’s hard to see why the government fought so hard to prevent the release of these records,” said FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek. “It looks like the government was attempting to prevent embarrassment more than anything else.”

The records show there was a great deal of concern about getting documents to UBC for signed before the beginning of Question Period to allow the minister to provide a positive answer to questions (p. 265-68). A lot of the emails seem to relate to technical difficulties with the wording of the contracts, and also difficulties in gaining access to medical records, usually for technical reasons. There is also mention of the “swamp of data access” (p. 288) and concerns about conflicts of interest being used by “our detractors”. (p. 300)

The government initially refused to release any of these records, and their main claim was that releasing these records would damage ongoing investigations into the situation. The Information Commissioner’s Adjudicator was not convinced, stating:

“In my view, the Ministry’s submissions are based on speculation, and there is no objective evidentiary basis for concluding that the harms the Ministry fears will result from disclosure to the applicant.”

Contact:

Vincent Gogolek, Executive Director
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
Email: Vincent (at) fipa.bc.ca
Phone: 604-739-9788
Cell 604-318-0031
http://fipa.bc.ca

Download the release as a pdf

FOI Release: Ministry of Health data breach final release

In response to OIPC order F14-45, the release of all data sharing and other agreements between January 1, 2011 and August 2, 2012 involving MoH and Rebecca Warburton, William Warburton, Malcolm Maclure and Colin Dormuth; all correspondence between these individuals and the Ministry related to these agreements, particularly discussions of delays or other impediments to access to data for research purposes; any emails, memos or other notices to staff from the ADM, IM/IT Division regarding delays or other impediments to release of data to researchers during the same period, along with any policy changes relating to release of data to researchers.

The release is in three parts- click to download the documents:

Part One (p. 1-189)

Part Two (p. 190-245)

Part Three (p. 246-440)

 

Don’t Tackle Increasing Access to Information Complaints by Silencing the Watchdog

Originally posted in Huffington Post


Flags of Canada and Australia
Imagine shared under CC license by jasohill on Flickr

The federal Access to Information system has been in crisis for a number of years, and last week the crisis deepened.

Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault told the Commons Access to Information, Ethics and Privacy committee (ETHI) that the number of complaints her office receives from people being denied access to documents by the federal government has shot up 30 percent over the past year, and that her budget has been reduced by 11 percent over the past four years. Without more resources to deal with this surge in complaints, delays will inevitably result.

In fact, she stated that if she did not get additional funding, “Canadians’ quasi constitutional right of access will be increasingly denied.”

Any delay in the Commissioner’s office means information requesters will have to wait even longer to get their documents. It also means that if the government digs in its heels, requesters can’t even get their day in Federal Court until the Commissioner’s office finishes its review of the file.

Commissioner Legault says she has repeatedly requested additional funding from the government, with no results to date.

Interestingly, the Australian government (which enjoys very close relations with the Harper ™ Government) is setting a worrying precedent by going much further in undercutting their Information Commissioner. They are actually in the process of abolishing the office entirely.

The Abbott government claims axing the Commissioner will save AUS$10.2 million over four years. Part of this seems to be based on a predicted drop in the number of complaints.

When the Australian Commissioner’s office was created in 2010, the cost of a complaint dropped from AUS$816 to zero. With this financial barrier removed, the number of complaints subsequently rose from 110 to more than 500.

Unsurprisingly, with funding for the Commissioner’s office based on an anticipated 110 complaints, it couldn’t keep up with the increased volume of complaints, with delays being the result. The Abbott government was critical of these delays and, rather than increasing funding, used this as a justification for abolishing the office.

Presumably, their move to resume charging $800 plus to file a complaint should considerably reduce the number of complaints.

Funding has been cut, offices closed and staff laid off in anticipation of the law abolishing the Commissioner passing parliament. However, they have run into some roadblocks in running the Commissioner out of town; the government has declined to move the bill forward for debate and a vote, probably because the Australian Senate is not controlled by the government, and they know they would lose. The Senate has now finished its activities until the new year.

The very strange result is that the Australian Commissioner lives on, but has no budget or office. The Commissioner put a notice up on his website earlier this week saying they would continue in operations while “…liaising with the Australian Government about transition arrangements for freedom of information matters.”

Although the Harper Government is unlikely to axe the Information Commissioner in an election year, the Australian government does set a bad example, and our government could follow suit by using the increasing delays and frustration from years of underfunding the Commissioner’s office to argue for abolition in Omnibudget 2016 or 2017.

If they get re-elected…

FIPA is hiring!

For more than twenty years, FIPA has been an instrumental part of B.C.’s civil society. Apply now to join our team as our new Program Director. Here are the details on the position, and how to apply:

Position: Program Director
Position Type: Full-Time
Salary: $37,500- 40,000/year (dependant on experience)
Location: Vancouver/Lower Mainland, B.C.
Minimum Required Experience: Bachelor’s Degree in communications, project management, public policy, political science, or a related field; and at least 2 years professional experience

About us:

The B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association is a non-profit, non-partisan society established in 1991 to promote and defend freedom of information and privacy rights in Canada. Through extensive work in policy and law reform; research; public assistance and education; and litigation, we empower citizens by increasing their access to information and strengthening their control over their own personal information.

About the position:

This is a full-time position, reporting to the Executive Director. The Program Director’s primary duty is to support the growth and development of the Association, so you should be an excellent communicator with experience in project management, fundraising, and online outreach. Web development and CRM experience is highly valued. The Program Director also assists the Executive Director in service provision, administration, communication and policy work.

The Program Director’s responsibilities fall into four main areas. They include but are not limited to:

Fundraising and Development

  • Developing projects with an eye towards revenue development, and researching strategies for financial growth
  • Researching, preparing and submitting grant applications and reports to various funding bodies
  • Developing and implementing strategies to extend the Association’s reach and bolster its community profile
  • Preparing and distributing promotional materials and fundraising appeals, both online and off

Communications and Outreach

  • Writing and distributing compelling press releases, blog posts, newsletters, and website items on a variety of issues
  • Maintaining and improving tech/communication systems, including the website, social media, and constituent relationship management system (CRM)
  • Answering inquiries from the public and either appropriately routing or responding to them in a timely, accurate fashion
  • Develop cross-promotional partnerships and agreements with other organizations as needed

Member Services and Administration

  • Maintaining and updating the organization’s CRM; creating/distributing member notices including renewals, thank you letters, donation appeals, newsletters, etc.; and processing new memberships
  • Keeping records of website analytics, public inquiries, and member contacts for reporting and monitoring purposes, and using this data to develop evidence-based strategies and policies
  • Assisting the Executive Director in meeting the legal requirements of the Association
  • Communicating regularly with the Board of Directors to organize meetings and solicit assistance where necessary

Event Coordination and Special Projects

  • Developing and coordinating a variety of events such as conferences, workshops, and meetings
  • Proposing and overseeing the development of various public interest projects (advocacy campaigns, publications, research reports, educational resources)
  • Reaching out to other organizations to create new opportunities for collaboration

Qualifications and Skills:

The successful candidate will possess the qualities outlined above and demonstrate that they are capable of fulfilling the listed duties. They will have at least two years of relevant professional experience and at least an undergraduate degree in a relevant field from an accredited institution. The successful candidate will also have:

  • Demonstrated success in fundraising, development and leadership for non-profits
  • High level of familiarity and effectiveness with online platforms, technology and computer applications, particularly WordPress and Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) systems
  • A proven track record in communications and marketing for the non-profit sector
  • Excellent analytical, problem-solving and organizational abilities
  • Experience and competence in research
  • Sharp writing skills
  • Background in media relations, marketing, and/or organization communications
  • A keen interest in civil liberties, particularly access to information and privacy issues
  • The leadership and communication skills to cooperate with FIPA’s Board of Directors, volunteers, membership and diverse stakeholders.

To Apply:

To apply, please send a cover letter and resume to FIPA at fipa@fipa.bc.ca with “Employment Opportunity: (Your Name)” in the subject line by Friday, January 2, 2015. Anticipated start date is February 2, 2015 at the latest. Only candidates shortlisted for an interview will be contacted. No phone calls, please.

FIPA hires on the basis of merit and is committed to employment equity. All qualified persons are encouraged to apply. We especially welcome applications from members of visible minority groups, women, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, persons of minority sexual orientations and gender identities, and others with the skills and knowledge to engage productively with diverse communities.