I don’t think Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien received the warmest of welcomes from the privacy industry when he was first appointed. There was some criticism and a bit of surprise that a newcomer to the privacy scene was chosen. There was some suggestion that because Commissioner Therrien was coming from the public safety portfolio within the government that maybe, as a result, he’d be less critical of big brother-type files or legislation. Well, in my mind, he put those criticisms to rest this past year by being one of the first, as well as the loudest and clearest, advocates for amending Bill C-51.
Of course, sadly, there were no changes to C-51. I know that I would have been pretty miffed at the government’s unwillingness to even enter a dialogue about it—remember that the government for some time didn’t even ask for the commissioner to appear before committee on the bill.
From my time working in the federal government—both at Justice and then at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC)—I know some of the personal traits that are required for people to have such long and distinguished careers as Commissioner Therrien. I’d say that among other things these people have to be hardworking, intelligent, strategic and patient. The last quality is the one that I don’t have enough of myself, but I have marveled at those who can wait things out and steer the ship they are navigating by incrementally moving the helm to get it where they wanted—and it needed—to go.
All indications are that Commissioner Therrien is taking a thoughtful approach with his office and with the large policy files the OPC must stickhandle. However, I wonder if C-51 might have affected the patience characteristic at all.
To get to my point, I'd like to remind you that Commissioner Therrien will be giving his annual address to the profession in just under two weeks at the Symposium. I am looking forward to hearing what he might say about C-51—if he decides to broach this. But, I have an equal amount of anticipation to hear what he might say about his office’s new priorities, what has surprised him the most about the privacy landscape, where he sees the biggest challenges ahead and maybe even his thoughts on real substantive legislative changes for which he might push. I’m sure you, too, are anxious to hear from our not-so-new-anymore commissioner. Hopefully you’ll be in the audience to hear it firsthand.
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