Progress lags on improving information and privacy in Nunavut: MLAs
"Further action is required"
The Government of Nunavut has made some progress in improving the territory’s Access to Information and Privacy Protection Act, say members of a Nunavut legislature standing committee.
But the MLAs, who are members of the committee which look at government operations and public accounts, want to know more about what the GN is doing to deliver on its long-promised amendments to the act.
Ron Elliott, Quttiktuq MLA and chairman of the standing committee, tabled its report on the GN’s review of the act earlier this month in the Nunavut legislature.
The committee said it wants the GN to give Nunavut’s information and privacy commissioner “clear authority” to investigate privacy breaches, to extend the privacy act to municipalities, and to address the issue of health-specific legislation — essentially the same issues identified in the 2010-11 report of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
“While the government has made progress on some issues, the standing committee notes that further action is required in other areas,” Elliott told the assembly earlier this month.
Some of the committee’s recommendations include:
• disclosure of Crown agency contracting, procurement and leasing activities: while the committee says there have been improvements over the past year, it wants “more timely releases of reports” from Crown agencies like the Nunavut Business Credit Corp., Nunavut Housing Corp., Qulliq Energy Corp., and Nunavut Arctic College;
• disclosure of information related to communicable diseases (a recommendation first made in 2010, following the H1N1 outbreak across Nunavut, when MLAs asked the GN’s health department to disclose the names of communities affected by communicable diseases and the number of cases in each community): the GN said its health and social services department would develop a protocol on releasing more information, although Elliott said that protocol hasn’t yet been tabled in the legislature;
• clarity on the communication practices of health centres (a recommendation stemming from questions raised about health care staff who use the local radio to broadcast the names of people, asking them to come to the health centre): the GN’s policy on “contacting clients through local radio” says that naming individual clients over the radio is a breach of confidentiality, so, the standing committee again wants the GN to table a policy making its position clear to health care centres;
• application of access to information and protection of privacy legislation to municipalities: last year Keenan Bengts told the committee that Nunavut was one of the only remaining jurisdictions in Canada that doesn’t include municipalities under its Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. While the GN said it’s started to extend the legislation to Nunavut’s communities, the standing committee says the next GN report on the act should provide an update on its progress to date; and,
• development of health-specific privacy legislation: in the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s 2009-10 report, Keenan Bengts said Nunavut needed to create separate legislation to deal with the privacy of its health records, particularly as Canada moves towards an integrated electronic health record system. While the GN later said that its eHealth project has retained privacy and security specialists to ensure privacy of those records, the standing committee wants the GN to provide an update on its management of health records and information sharing between departments as part of its next report.
The GN will deliver amendments to the Information and Privacy Protection Act by the end of 2012 to ensure better “accountability and transparency,” Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak promised the legislative assembly in October, 2011.
You can see the recent standing committee report here.