Legislative hearings begin for Privacy Commissioner’s reports
The government’s responsibility for privacy and access to information is under review Monday in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly.
Over the next two days, the Standing Committee on Oversight of Government Operations and Public Accounts will question officials about Nunavut’s access to information process — a system that Privacy Commissioner Graham Steele calls inappropriate and outdated in its last 2021-2022 annual report.
Citizens should be able to trust the territory to protect personal information, but not all departments do it properly, standing committee chair George Hickes told CBC News.
« The commissioner is quite blunt in his latest annual report that the government is not meeting its legislative requirements, » he said. “I would like to hear more about this from the commissioner and the government on how they can improve the training, management support and resources that are given to access to information coordinators in the whole government. »
Nunavut’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act predates the territory. Although it has seen some updates, Steele’s report says the legislation needs an overhaul.
« We live in a world of surveillance and cyberattacks. Nunavut’s legislative response to privacy has not kept pace, » Steele wrote in the report, released in the spring.
There is also no penalty if the government does not respond to requests for information, according to Steele. Currently, the Privacy Commissioner can only make recommendations. Steele wants to see more authority for his office to demand that the government make changes.
At the start of the hearing, Hickes and Steele will make opening statements, as will Deputy Minister of Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs Jimi Onalik. The standing committee last considered the Privacy Commissioner’s reports in April 2019.
“One of the benefits of having a hearing like this is having both sides at the table,” Hickes said.
This is Steele’s first full cycle as Commissioner, having replaced the late Elaine Keenan Bengts. Prior to Steele, Nunavut shared a Privacy Commissioner with the Northwest Territories.
« The televised standing committee hearings on the annual reports of independent officers of the Legislative Assembly are an integral part of the parliamentary cycle, » Assembly Clerk John Quirke said in an email.
“These officers are legally required to prepare annual reports to the legislature, which the president tables in the chamber,” he said.
Following the hearing, the standing committee will report to the government.
The hearing begins at 1:30 a.m. ET and will be televised on local community cable stations and direct-to-home satellite service on Bell channels 513 and Shaw channels 289 and 489, as well as broadcast live by the Legislative Assembly.