VANCOUVER, August 5, 2015 – The Office of the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) has confirmed that the BC government is not prevented by law from posting reports that contain personal information. This follows the BC government’s claim that their refusal to post certain “embarrassing” reports online was based on restrictions in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).
The BC government claimed that because the reports in question contained personal information, FIPPA prevented them from posting them online as the information would be “accessible” outside Canada.
In response to a complaint from the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA), Commissioner Elizabeth Denham’s office has determined that minsters have the power to order such reports to be published on the web, notwithstanding the domestic data storage sections of the Act.
“We’re pleased that the Commissioner has undercut the government’s attempt to stretch the Act’s provisions to suit their own PR purposes,” said FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek. “If the government doesn’t post these and similar reports, it is because they don’t want them to circulate, not because of any legal prohibition.”
FIPA’s complaint had centred on the government’s refusal to post the report about its mysterious Ministry of Health data breach firings (the McNeil report) or that about the excessive executive payment at Kwantlen University (the Mingay Report). FIPA disputed the government’s claim that posting these “embarrassing” reports online would violate section 33.2 of FIPPA—which requires personal information not be stored or accessible outside Canada—stating that the intention of the section is not to keep government from being held accountable.
The Commissioner’s office added that the confusing wording of the Act is a “shortcoming” which should be brought to the attention of the special Legislative committee currently reviewing the law. According to the OIPC, “this would be consistent with the broad purposes of [the Act] and in particular the need to hold government accountable.”
Vincent Gogolek, Executive Director
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
vincent [at] fipa.bc.ca – (o) 604-739-9788 – (c) 604-318-0031