A step towards accountability

Media Release

A small step towards open and transparent government

Vancouver, February 5, 2019 – The B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association is pleased with the recommendations made by the province’s top watchdogs to bring the Legislative Assembly of B.C. under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

Signed by Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy, Merit Commissioner Fiona Spencer, and Ombudsperson Jay Chalke, the recommendations called for the Legislature to “meet the same standards” that 2,900 other provincial public bodies are subject to. 

While opening the Legislature to freedom of information rules is a welcome sight, the move is ultimately just one of the steps to a full reform that FIPA has been calling for in the past two decades. “This is just one little piece of the puzzle and there’s a whole lot of reform that we’re trying to get,” says Executive Director Sara Neuert. “We continue to be in reactionary mode and we need to move a step further and be proactive.”

These recommendations will only act to prevent the exact same scandal from repeating itself, more effective change would address a broader scale of freedom of information reform.

The Special Committee to Review the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) drafted in May of 2016 has made calls for a comprehensive reform, which would include the enactment of a Duty to Document, penalties for interference, and addressing the exceptions and loopholes that can be routinely exploited during any FOI proceedings.

These comprehensive reforms are the only measures that will provide government transparency and establish a system of accountability that will prevent future government scandals from occurring.

Contact:

Sara Neuert, Executive Director

BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association

Email: fipa (at) fipa.bc.ca

Phone: 604-739-9788

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Scandal at Legislative Assembly demonstrates need for Law Reform

Media Release

Scandal at Legislative Assembly demonstrates need for Law Reform

Vancouver, January 24, 2019 – The need for reforming British Columbia’s outdated Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) is evidenced by the recent scandal concerning misconduct and lack of oversight at B.C.’s Legislative Assembly.

Allegations made by house speaker Darryl Plecas reflect the ‘black holes’ that exist in the transparency of government bodies, such as the legislature and office of the parliamentarians.

“The Legislative Assembly is outside the jurisdiction of freedom of information requests,” says Sara Neuert, executive director of BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. “It’s a shortcoming of government transparency and accountability. We would have learned of this sooner had we been able to place legislature offices under scrutiny.”

Sweeping amendments to the FIPPA have been repeatedly put forward by FIPA over the past 15-years. Recommendations for change were also presented in the last Special Legislative Committee report published in May 2016 – echoing the calls for additions such as mandating a ‘duty to document’ and administering real repercussions to government officials who impede the FOI process. So far, the current government has made several commitments to advancing reform, though steps leading towards actual change have yet to arrive.

Bringing legislature offices under the dominion of FOI laws is not an impossibility and can be enacted rather swiftly. While doing so would be a welcome step towards modernizing the province’s FOI laws, it would ultimately be just a step. What the province truly needs – and has needed for years – are comprehensive reforms, only then can the government be held accountable by the taxpaying public. 

Contact:

Sara Neuert, Executive Director

BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association

Email: fipa (at) fipa.bc.ca

Phone: 604-739-9788

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Best Practices in Whistleblower Legislation: An Analysis of Federal and Provincial Legislation Relevant to Disclosures of Wrongdoing in British Columbia

Best Practices in Whistleblower Legislation, prepared by Carroll Anne Boydell, instructor of criminology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University on behalf of the British Columbia Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, compares BC’s new whistleblower legislation, the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA), to international best practices standards.

Best practice principles exist for laws, regulations, and procedures aimed at the protection of those who report wrongdoing. The purpose of this paper is to examine selected legislation containing whistleblower protections that are relevant to those who disclose wrongdoing in British Columbia to determine how well they follow best practice principles. Several best practice principles were reflected in the legislation reviewed, and the introduction of the new Public Interest Disclosure Act in British Columbia is a positive development in the protection of whistleblowers who are employees of the provincial government.

However, not all best practice principles are enshrined in the laws examined here. For example, there are still types of whistleblowers that do not have adequate protections, such as private sector workers and those in the public sector who are not employed by a provincial ministry, government body, or office. In addition, though types of protected disclosures have been expanded under the PIDA, there are still some disclosures of wrongdoing that may remain unprotected, such as interference with freedom of information requests. Some issues were also found related to transparency of decisions made about investigations into disclosures of wrongdoing and complaints of reprisal against whistleblowers, as well as about the accountability of government agencies in protecting whistleblowers. Therefore, some refinements and amendments to whistleblower laws and disclosure management procedures are needed to ensure that adequate protections are afforded to those who disclose wrongdoing in British Columbia.

Download the resource.

For more than twenty years, the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association has relied on the support of our community to provide resources, educational programming, and one-on-one advice. By making a contribution to the Association in exchange for this resource, you’re helping us provide another two decades of service to Canadians and supporting more publications like this in the future. There is no minimum donation amount. Every bit helps.

Click here to make a donation. We hope you consider supporting the Associations.

Let us know what you think: If you have comments, questions, or concerns about the report, please send them to FIPA at fipa@fipa.bc.ca or tweet to us @BCFIPA.

Statistics Canada Requesting Financial Information of Canadians

MEDIA RELEASE

November 5, 2018

Statistics Canada Requesting Financial Information of Canadians

VANCOUVER, November 5, 2018 – The recent media reports of Statistics Canada seeking to collect the financial information of Canadians in order to build a personal information bank—and the report that Statistics Canada has already received personal financial data from one of Canada’s two credit bureaus—exposes issues around how government agencies collect, store, and use the sensitive personal information of Canadians.

While the Freedom of Information and Privacy Association of BC supports Statistics Canada ability to provide a valuable service to Canadians, the government agency needs to find a balance between fulfilling its mandate and respecting the privacy of its stakeholders.

“It is untenable to give absolute trust and authority to a government agency in today’s technological landscape,” says Sara Neuert, FIPA’s executive director. “Given the regularity that personal information is breached, Statistics Canada has an ethical responsibility to inform Canadians about access to their sensitive financial information, and to seek their consent before doing so.”

As Statistics Canada only sees value in this data if it can be connected to the identity of a person, consent is needed to collect this information. In order to enshrine this privacy principle in law, the Privacy Act should be revised to include provisions that requires government agencies who seek to collect identifiable personal information from third-parties to first seek consent from those individuals.

In addition, the Statistics Acts needs to be updated to account for the digital transformation that has occurred since its inception. There are no longer the same kinds of physical limitations that once restrained the amount of sensitive information about Canadians that could be collected, stored, and used. Therefore, the Statistics Act should reflect this transformation.

Contact:

Sara Neuert, Executive Director

BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association

Email: fipa (at) fipa.bc.ca

Phone: 604-739-9788

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