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Vancouver, January 24, 2019 – The need for reforming British Columbia’s outdated Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) is evidenced by the recent scandal concerning misconduct and lack of oversight at B.C.’s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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New study outlines the critical importance of whistleblowers to uncovering wrongdoing

MEDIA RELEASE

November 13, 2018

New study outlines the critical importance of whistleblowers to uncovering wrongdoing

Vancouver, November 13, 2018 — A report commissioned by the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association posits that while both federal and provincial legislation regarding the protection of whistleblowers exhibits positive advances, there are still necessary steps to take in order to reflect the same safeguards to workers outside governmental jurisdiction.

Currently, employees in the private sector remain vulnerable to retaliation should they partake in the disclosure of wrongdoing. The report coincides with the recent introduction of the Public Interest Disclosure Act of BC (PIDA), which notably introduced new protections to whistleblowers within the provincial government.

”While we strongly support the introduction of whistleblower protection legislation, BC FIPA is concerned that the definition of ‘wrongdoing’ under the Public Interest Disclosure Act does not encompass deliberate efforts to interfere with access to information rights under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA),” said Sara Neuert Executive Director of BC FIPA.

FIPA has received inquiries from the public about the new legislation and looks forward to the provincial government’s implementation of the act and enforcement procedures coming into effect.

Best Practices in Whistleblower Legislation: An Analysis of Federal and Provincial Legislation Relevant to Disclosures of Wrongdoing in British Columbia underscores the critical importance of protecting whistleblowers. Researcher and author Carroll Anne Boydell suggests that a more comprehensive scope of protection displays a level of societal value to the work of whistleblowers. Such recognition is then deemed as possible motivation to incite the continued disclosure of wrongdoing, particularly for those who see their respective acts as a form of civic duty.

The report is available here.

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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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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USMCA Puts Privacy at Risk

MEDIA RELEASE

October 17, 2018

USMCA Puts Privacy at Risk

VANCOUVER, October 17, 2018 – The pending free trade agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the United States (USMCA) conflicts with existing provincial legislation around data localization and puts the privacy of British Columbians at risk.

The Freedom of Information and Privacy Association of British Columbia continues to support the data localization provision within BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

The data localization provision, section 30.1 of the act, protects the privacy of British Columbians by mandating that the personal information collected by public bodies must be stored and accessed only in Canada, with some limited exceptions.

“Controlling where personal information flows, and who has access to it, is an essential tool in the ongoing and evolving process of protecting the privacy of British Columbians,” said FIPA executive director, Sara Neuert.

While data localization has been and continues to be an important step in maintaining and enhancing personal information protections that are in accordance with our Canadian values, Article 19.12 of the USMCA prohibits computing facilities from being located in a specific place.

The domestic data storage provision within FIPPA is a matter of political consensus within in British Columbia. We are calling on the provincial government to reaffirm its commitment to section 30.1 of FIPPA in light of the recent USMCA trade agreement.

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