Government staffer charged for making false statements about triple-deleting emails

George Gretes charged after failing to tell truth to Information and Privacy Commissioner under oath

VANCOUVER, March 11, 2016 – The BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) is glad to see that George Gretes—a former Ministerial Assistant in the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure who wilfully deleted emails responsive to a Freedom of Information request—has been charged for making false statements about this practice. However, the group remains disappointed that there can be no charges for the obstruction of the FOI request. The Criminal Justice Branch announced the charges Friday, and Gretes is expected to appear in court on April 20.

During the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner’s investigation of what is now known as the “Triple Delete” scandal, Gretes falsely testified under oath that he did not engage in the practise of triple-deleting emails, before ultimately admitting that he did in fact engage in this practice. This was described in the Commissioner’s eye-opening report on the destruction of email records related to missing women on the Highway of Tears.

While FIPA is glad that charges have been laid against Gretes for giving false testimony, the group continues to be disappointed that there are no penalties for improper destruction of email records.

In a recent submission to the Special Committee reviewing BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), FIPA called for the Act to be amended to include a positive duty to create and maintain records, criticised the government’s misuse and overuse of the classification of records as “transitory” (which would allow them to be destroyed), and called for strong legal consequences for those who violate the law by inappropriately destroying records.

The BC Information and Privacy Commissioner also included a call for a legislated “duty to document” in her submission, and argued that “penalties for offences committed by individuals under FIPPA should be raised to be up to a maximum of $50,000 for both general and privacy offences.”

British Columbians also appear to support these proposals: An Ipsos poll commissioned by FIPA and released in February shows that 96% of British Columbians believe it is important that government officials be legally required to keep accurate, complete records of what they do on the job. A further 84% think government officials who interfere with access to information rights should face penalties (with 12% stating they don’t know).

85% of respondents believed these reforms should be put into law before the next BC election in 2017.

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For interviews with FIPA, please contact:

Lindsey Bertrand, Program Director
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
fipa@fipa.bc.ca | (o) 604-739-9788