Saturday, December 03, 2005

La Forest Report Warns Against Merging Federal Information and Privacy Commissions

This week, a report by former Supreme Court justice Gerard La Forest concerning the future of the offices of the federal information and privacy commissioners was publicly released . Written for the federal government, the report comes out against the idea of merging the two offices.

The information commissioner is an ombudsman for citizens who request federal government files under the Access to Information Act. The privacy commissioner handles complaints about abuses concerning the handling of personal information as described under the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

For some time, there had been a lot of speculation that the federal government wanted a merger of the offices or a cross-appointment of a single commissioner to both offices in the name of efficiency.

La Forest concludes that the federal government should instead strengthen both offices to foster compliance with its legal obligations. In terms of the access to information legislation, this means developing a culture under which information should be provided unless there is a compelling reason not to do so, and providing incentives for complying. As for privacy protection, the report argues that the government needs to have better safeguards when it comes to the sharing and outsourcing to private companies of personal information about Canadians.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:01 pm


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