BC FIPA proposes revisions to s. 13 of FIPPA after College of Physicians v. OIPC decision (the “Dr. Doe” case)

BC FIPA has proposed revisions to s. 13 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in Response to the Decision in College of Physicians of British Columbia v. British Columbia (Information and Privacy Commissioner) in its submission to the Special Committee to Review the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

Executive Summary

Section 13 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act permits an exception from access for “information that would reveal advice or recommendations be developed by or for a public body or a minister”. Until recently, it had been generally believed that “advice or recommendations” was limited to documents or reports that advocated that government choose a particular course of action or make a particular decision; in effect, “we recommend that you do this”, or “we advise that you do that”.

In the recent “Dr. Doe” case, however, the Sexual Conduct Review Committee of the College of Physicians was able to withhold from an applicant experts’ reports about whether or not she had been hypnotized. The Court of Appeal held that the s. 13 exception was not limited to recommendations as defined above; instead, the investigation and gathering of facts could be exempted from access pursuant to s. 13, regardless of whether or not any decision or course of action was actually recommended.

The result is a departure from the original intent of the statute. Applicants can now be denied access to a great variety of documents that would previously have been available to them. This will be the case even where the documents are about those applicants themselves and directly affect their interests.

The legislation should be amended to reflect the intention that the words “advice or recommendations” in s. 13 are limited to actually advising or recommending that government do something.

Download the full submission (pdf).

BC FIPA’s comments on Bill 38, the Personal Information Protection Act, submitted to the Minister of Management Services – 15 May 2003

Bill 38 is a very good piece of privacy legislation and a breakthrough for privacy rights at the provincial level. BC has shown strong leadership among the provinces in moving forward with a private-sector privacy bill that has real teeth. For this, great credit is due to yourself and also to Chris Norman and Sharon Plater, the officials at the Corporate Privacy and Information Access Branch who have conducted the public consultation process and the development of the legislation.

However, Bill 38 is not flawless. In our news release of May 2, 2003, BC FIPA’s president stated, “We are pleased at how far the bill progressed [during the consultation process]. We’re not saying that the act is perfect, but we give it a high “B” grade.”

FIPA has stated clearly to the government, the media and the public that we support Bill 38 because its merits greatly outweigh its flaws. In endorsing the Bill, we recognize how far the government moved to improve and strengthen it during the consultation process. Nevertheless, we must state that we are in substantial agreement with most of the points the Privacy Commissioner has raised. We urge the government to consider the substance of the Privacy Commissioner’s comments seriously, and if at all possible, make improvements to the Bill in the areas in which he has expressed concern.

Read BC FIPA’s complete comments to the Minister (doc).

BC FIPA Comments on Proposal for Nat’l ID Card

BC FIPA presented its comments before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Public Safety on the proposal to create a national identity card.

[A] national ID card would be:

  • hugely expensive;
  • just as subject to fraud, privacy abuses, and security breaches as current systems of identification; and
  • not likely to be more effective in preventing crime than better managed and more secure systems for birth certificates, Social Insurance Numbers, passports, and driver’s licenses.

Canadians have not had an open and thorough debate about the possibility of creating a national identity card, and we believe it would be a serious mistake to proceed in the heat of the moment without such a debate — or more accurately, in the current atmosphere of fear, anger and hysteria which has so unbalanced our neighbour to the south.

Read the full text of the comments (pdf).