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.

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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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NEWS RELEASE: Recommendations for Canada’s Digital Transformation

MEDIA RELEASE

October 4, 2018

Recommendations for Canada’s Digital Transformation

VANCOUVER, October 4, 2018 – The B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association submitted a paper to the department of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development for their consultation on digital transformation.

The national digital and data consultation, including the roundtable discussions that took place across Canada from June to September of this year, were an important step to ensuring that government is taking all the varied and diverse stakeholders involved this process into account.

“We’re encouraged by government’s willingness to receive outside feedback and optimistic that Canada’s digital transformation will instigate much needed improvements to our privacy and data protections,” said FIPA executive director, Sara Neuert.

Our submission compared Canada’s existing privacy and data protection framework to international regulations like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. Based on this analysis, we created a list of recommendations, which include:

  • Increased funding for education and awareness around risks related to digital transformation and privacy breaches
  • The creation of a proactive reporting culture around privacy in government
  • An accessible complaints process for individuals who are reporting privacy breaches
  • Increased funding and investigative and enforcement power for the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Office of Privacy
  • More research on the impact of privacy issues on marginalized groups in a digital transformation
  • Further study on the impact of public utilities being transferred to a digital platform
  • The creation of a new data protection and privacy framework that complies with digital transformation and sufficient time for interested groups to provide feedback prior to implementation.

The Innovation, Science, and Economic Development department will be issuing a report based on these consultations in the near future.

Contact:
Sara Neuert, Executive Director
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
Email: Sara (at) fipa.bc.ca
Phone: 604-739-9788
Cell: 604-318-0031

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Civil society groups kick-off Right to Know Week by calling for immediate action to reform and update FIPPA

Earlier today we sent a joint letter to Premier John Horgan and Minister Jinny Sims supporting Freedom of Information and privacy reform.

The text of the letter, signed by a number of well-known groups and individuals, is set out below. See here for the PDF copy.

September 24, 2018

The Honourable John Horgan
Premier of British Columbia
Victoria, BC

The Honourable Jinny Sims
Minister of Citizens’ Services
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2

By Email: premier@gov.bc.ca; LCTZ.Minister@gov.bc.ca

Dear Premier Horgan and Minister Sims:

Re: Reform of Freedom of Information and Privacy Legislation

This year, Right to Know Week will be celebrated the week of 24-30 September. Right to Know Week provides organizations, groups, and people across Canada an opportunity to come together to raise awareness of the importance of the right of access to government information, and to call for action with a view to strengthening and protecting this fundamental right.

We are marking 2018’s Right to Know Week by writing to you regarding the need for immediate action to reform and update BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

The FIPPA is outdated, and meaningful and substantive reforms are long overdue. This has been the conclusion of various studies and reports, including the 2016 Report of the Special Legislative Committee tasked with reviewing the Act. It is also our conclusion as active users and observers of BC’s Freedom of Information system. Necessary changes include:

  • Creating a real legislative ‘duty to document’ under FIPPA, to end the practice of ‘oral government’ and ensure that government officials are legally required to keep accurate, complete records of what they do on the job;
  • Tightening certain exceptions to disclosure, particularly sections 12 (cabinet records) and 13 (policy advice), including taking steps to end the abuse of these provisions;
  • Bringing all subsidiaries of educational and other public bodies within the scope of the FIPPA; and
  • Creating penalties, under the FIPPA, for government officials who interfere with freedom of information rights.

Your government has expressed a commitment to improve BC’s freedom of information system, and we know that you have taken steps to consult with the public and the FOI community (through the Spring 2018 public engagement on FOI and the ongoing Freedom of Information Rules Project conducted by the Ministry of Citizens’ Services). However, we have yet to see the introduction of legislation to reform the FIPPA.

In our experience, governments of all types and at all levels frequently speak about the importance of transparency, accountability, and the right to know, and opposition political parties often call for FOI reform. However, these claims rarely translate into meaningful actions to improve the legislation that supports our right to know.

There is an opportunity for your government to show true leadership in this area by bringing forward legislation to reform the FIPPA. We note that 84% of respondents in a 2018 Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of BC FIPA believe that FOI reforms should be put into law before the next provincial election. There is both a pressing need for change and a clear public mandate for it. We hope that you will mark this Right to Know Week by announcing – and committing to – a timetable for the introduction of a FIPPA reform bill.

We are available to work with your government to help bring about positive changes to protect the information rights of all British Columbians and build a stronger democracy.

Yours Truly,

 

 

 

 

Sara Neuert
Executive Director, BC FIPA

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Larsen
President, BC FIPA

 

Micheal Vonn, Policy Director, BC Civil Liberties Association
Darrell Evans, Executive Director (volunteer), Canadian Institute for Information and Privacy Studies Society
Kris Constable, President, Canadian Institute for Information and Privacy Studies Society
Tamir Israel, Staff Lawyer, Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic
Randy Christensen, Staff Lawyer, EcoJustice
John Hinds, President and Chief Executive Officer, News Media Canada
Beth Clarke, Development and Program Director, Wilderness Committee
Vincent Gogolek, FOI and Privacy Expert,
Toby Mendel, Executive Director, Centre for Law and Democracy
Stanley Tromp, Journalist
Robyn Laba, Senior Researcher, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs
Laura Tribe, Executive Director, OpenMedia