When our federal Privacy Act was conceived, as a twin to the Access to Information Act, the idea was that the oversight body enforcing the law would follow the ombuds model. The ultimate decision-making power would remain with the government, but the folks overseeing it could try to persuade them in the right direction.
A lot of good work came from that model, but I think it’s safe to say that most people in the industry believe it’s time for the commissioners to join most of their provincial counterparts, and international ones as well, and be empowered to order compliance – not just persuade it.
But, hey . . . not too fast. Below is an interesting article that raises another thorny issue we have at the federal level: the fact that we have two commissioners and one might be getting the power to order the government concerning issues that fall squarely within the other commissioner’s jurisdiction.
The quick version of the story is that it looks like the information commissioner may be given order-making powers and that would include ordering the government to release information that some people might interpret as being personal information.
Should the power to order government to apply an interpretation of the definition of personal information reside with the information commissioner?
Seems to me that the separation between commissioners is once again causing headaches that will involve creative solutions. I hope our parliamentarians are up to the task. And, while I applaud Commissioner Therrien for sticking with his motto of collaboration throughout his relatively short tenure so far, I think this is one case where more than cooperation is required; we need a legal fix to the conundrum.
It just shows us that both our federal information laws are in need of overhaul, not just tuneups and Band-Aids.
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