NEWS RELEASE: Support for the Heiltsuk First Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and Tsilhqot’in National Government’s requests for COVID case information

BC FIPA and BCCLA support the Heiltsuk First Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and Tsilhqot’in National Government’s requests for COVID case information 

VANCOUVER, September 15, 2020 – The BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) and the BC Civil Liberties Association’s (BCCLA) have signed a joint letter to express support for the Heiltsuk First Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and Tsilhqot’in National Government’s and their requests for information from the BC Ministry of Health on COVID case information. 

Despite repeated requests, the Ministry of Health refuses to disclose information relating to presumptive and confirmed COVID cases proximate to these rural Indigenous communities. This has prompted the nations to make a complaint to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The Ministry of Health should address these requests and provide information pursuant to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA). 

 “The complaint has a strong factual basis that is grounded in the risks experienced by specific rural Indigenous communities. We think that their ‘right to know’ is strongly supported by S.25 of FIPPA because the requested information pertains to the risk of significant harm to the health and safety of a group of people.” says Jason Woywada, FIPA’s Executive Director. “A crisis of this nature is precisely the time when transparency matters most, and these types of releases should be routine. If government doesn’t already have the necessary data sharing agreements with Indigenous communities in place to address these types of scenarios, they should be working quickly to address that gap.” 

“The Heiltsuk First Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and Tsilhqot’in National Government have rights to self-determination and self-government, and to be actively involved in developing and determining programs for maintaining the health and well-being of their people” says Meghan McDermott, Interim Policy Director at the BCCLA. “By refusing to share the requested health data (with appropriate confidentiality provisions), the Ministry of Health is essentially preventing these communities from exercising the very rights that the province recognized when it enacted DRIPA.” 

The history of colonization and the impacts of pandemics have disproportionately harmed Indigenous communities. The BC Government can work with Indigenous governments to disclose this information while also protecting privacy, but the Ministry’s failure to provide critical health information not only inhibits the Indigenous groups’ right to self-determination, it renders the province’s repeated commitments to “reconciliation” questionable.  

See for the full letter here.

Take action by supporting the Keep Safe campaign here and sign the petition


Jason Woywada, Executive Director 
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
(P) 604-739-9788 
Meghan McDermott, Interim Policy Director 
BC Civil Liberties Association 
(P) 778-679-8906 

BC FIPA’s 2019 Annual Report

Looking back at a year of positive change, we are proud of the work we’ve done to further BC’s and Canada’s information and privacy rights landscape.

The 2019 report reflects our ongoing commitment to strengthening FIPA’s position within the information and privacy rights field through legal research, law reform, public legal education, and advocacy and public aid. We will continue to push and advocate for government transparency and freedom of information, surveillance and privacy, and civil liberties.

This report is available as a downloadable PDF. We invite you to explore its content and learn more about FIPA’s work.

Joint letter on data collection and privacy in the COVID-19 era.

BC FIPA, along with other civil society groups, has signed on to Open Media’s joint letter calling for measures to be put in place to ensure Canadians’ right to privacy is protected, and not undermined after the crisis is over.

Specifically, we are asking for a clear message from the provincial and federal governments stating that they will not turn to digital tracking and location data collection to address COVID-19 concerns.

With that in mind, we are looking to pre-empt potential bad policies by putting forward seven key principles that should be in place to preserve our privacy and our democracy:

  1. Prioritize approaches to help people stay at home which do not involve surveillance.
  2. Due process for adopting any new powers.
  3. Consent must be favoured.
  4. Put strict limits on data collection and retention.
  5. Put strict limits on use and disclosure.
  6. There must be oversight, transparency and accountability.
  7. Any surveillance efforts related to COVID-19 must not fall under the domain of security, law enforcement or intelligence agencies.

More information on these principles can be found here.

Data Privacy Design Jam: What is meaningful consent in an age of connected devices?

BC FIPA, in partnership with the Vancouver Design Nerds, held a two-day design jam in Ottawa March 5th and 6th. The purpose of this event was to explore issues around meaningful consent in the context of everyday life ranging from personal wearable technologies to smart homes and smart cities and their relationship to big data. With these different scales in mind, we sought to create new models of generating meaningful consent to mitigate the negative impact these technologies have on privacy. The two-day event brought together a diverse group of experts from academia and industry to advocates and activists working in this space to find creative solutions through a collaborative and inter-disciplinary approach.

Data Privacy Design Jam report title page

The final ‘prototypes’ that emerged after the second day varied in terms of how they approached meaningful consent, but an underlying theme that intersected all four groups was a focus on empowering individuals to take control over their personal information through various methods .

It is important to note that this project in itself is not the final stage in our work on meaningful consent and connected societies. Rather, this project has become a ‘jumping-off point’ that will launch future research and events to further address these issues. More specifically, we have begun to explore the feasibility of hosting another design jam with everyday consumers from various backgrounds rather than expert participants. The process we used could be adapted for either a representative sample of the general public or a predefined select target audience. By providing a similar initial problem and thought processes, the results would provide useful insights to how the public views issues of consent in a modern context.

Download the full report here.

BC FIPA would like to thank the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada for the opportunity to explore this important issue through the Contributions Program.