Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut March 12, 2014 - 2:22 pm

Nunavut government tells Iqaluit to respect info-access, privacy law

GN’s ATIPP manager calls on city to set example for Nunavut’s hamlets

PETER VARGA
Elaine Keenan Bengts, Nunavut's information and privacy commissioner, at a meeting held April 2013 with the legislative assembly's standing committee on government operations. At the time she said municipal government's must start complying with the Access to Information and Protecton of Privacy Act. But the GN's ATIPP office has had little success in persuading munipalities to prepare for it. (FILE PHOTO)
Elaine Keenan Bengts, Nunavut's information and privacy commissioner, at a meeting held April 2013 with the legislative assembly's standing committee on government operations. At the time she said municipal government's must start complying with the Access to Information and Protecton of Privacy Act. But the GN's ATIPP office has had little success in persuading munipalities to prepare for it. (FILE PHOTO)

The territorial government wants Iqaluit to start adopting access to information and privacy norms, set out under Nunavut’s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (ATIPP) Act.

The act, however, is not yet binding on the Nunavut municipalities, and city administration has so far ignored calls — going back more than two years — to implement any of its measures.

With that, Nunavut’s manager of access to information and privacy norms, Jessica Bell, took the government’s case directly to city council, March 11.

“Nunavut municipalities are currently not subject to the ATIPP Act,” Bell told councillors.

“However, there has been a push for this inclusion from the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Nunavut, the legislative assembly and Nunavummiut.”

The act’s purpose is to safeguard all citizens’ information in government files, and provide guidelines on what information is rightfully open to the public.

The act is in force for the territorial government, but plans to extend it to the municipalities of Nunavut have proved to be more complicated and costly.

Bell said Iqaluit, as capital of the territory, is more capable of adopting “the primary objectives” of the act than smaller communities.

“Starting with the city of Iqaluit, we hope that this will be a program that we can implement successfully — and eventually roll it out to all of the other communities,” she said.

“At this time, I am requesting the commitment of city council and city staff to implement and comply with access and privacy bylaws and policies in the spirit and intent of the ATIPP Act,” until legislation come into force covering all municipalities in the territory, Bell told city council.

In a council meeting that included the approval of a hard-fought budget, which took two months of deliberation to pass, councillors turned immediately to the cost of implementing an ATIPP plan.

“It’s obvious that the financial implications of this are going to be large,” said Coun. Romeyn Stevenson. “Does the Government of Nunavut intend to support this program?”

“The majority of support we can offer at this time is administrative,” Bell said. The program “does sound like a costly venture, but ATIPP actually saves you money in the long run.

“The amount of money it costs in the event of a privacy breach can far outweigh the cost it takes to implement privacy within the city.”

“It is important,” Stevenson agreed. “I just fear that putting out legislation without financial backing will put us on a financial precipice that will be serious. At some point we will be forced to implement this, correct?”

“At this point, you could voluntarily comply,” Bell said. “You get to determine what your privacy policy plan looks like.”

The ATIPP manager outlined a recommended program for compliance, outlined in a recent letter to the city.

It leads off with a privacy security policy where “physical and electronic safeguards” are put in place to “prevent unauthorized access, collection, use disclosure or disposal of information.”

That first step involves basic measures such as ensuring paper files are locked up, and electronic information is password-protected, Bell said.

Next steps, implemented in three to six months include:

• Employee privacy policies
• Access to information bylaws and policies

A later stage in the next six to 12 months includes:

• Establishment of records-management systems
• Creation of an access to information policy

“This is not something that the GN wants to be heavy-handed on,” Bell said. “We would work together to follow some sort of plan, but nothing that’s strict.”

Although council made no immediate commitment to implement an ATIPP plan for the city, Mayor John Graham agreed with the idea that Iqaluit should “set an example for other communities to follow across the territory.”

“There is money set aside for that in the budget,” he said.

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