Municipalities must streamline info requests, Nunavut info-privacy watchdog says
GN needs to "provide municipalities with ongoing assistance and financial resources to establish appropriate records managements systems"
Nunavut’s privacy watchdog is calling on the Government of Nunavut to make changes to the way people are able to access information from their municipal governments.
Municipalities aren’t “up to the task” when people request public records and the “process needs to start somewhere,” Elaine Keenan Bengts, the Nunavut Information and Privacy Commissioner, said in her 2012-13 annual report, tabled during the recent session of the Nunavut legislature.
“Once again, I would also encourage the GN of finding a way to provide municipalities with the tools that they need to implement consistent and system-wide rules and policies on access and privacy matters,” Keenan Bengts said.
Keenan Bengts said municipal officials have “highlighted the problems which municipalities would have being able to respond to a historical request for access to information.”
She also said that implementing privacy standards would have “little impact” on municipal “bottom lines.”
Her recommendations include amending the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act to include municipalities under the act.
Keenan Bengts also recommended “the GN provide municipalities with ongoing assistance and financial resources to establish appropriate records managements systems with a view to including all municipalities under part one of the act within the next five years.”
The recommendations come just as Iqaluit city councillors have called for more transparency in the city.
In her report, Keenan Bengts warns that she will be “challenging various departments to ensure that privacy is being addressed” in the next few years.
Another particular concern for Keenan Bengts is the privacy of health records in the territory, and how information is collected, stored and disclosed.
“While I have not received a large number of privacy complaints from people dealing with the health sector in Nunavut, I know that there have been breaches and I know that more work can be done,” Keenan Bengts said.
“I will now have the jurisdiction to implement investigations when these issues come to light,” she said.
That’s because in 2012 Bill C-38 — an act to amend the access to information and protection of privacy act — was passed to give more powers to the commissioner.
But Keenan Bengts said that specific privacy legislation should be made to address personal health information, and she said Nunavut “is the only remaining Canadian jurisdiction which does not have such legislation in place or pending.”
During the past year, there have been 21 files opened by the privacy commissioner’s office, which includes access to information requests and privacy reviews.
That’s five times more files opened than in 2010-11.
Most request for reviews went to the health department, the report said.
Keenan Bengts is Nunavut’s first and only privacy commissioner, an independent officer of the legislative assembly of Nunavut, since 1999. She has served as a privacy commissioner for the Northwest Territories since 1997.
The Yellowknife-based lawyer does the work in a part-time capacity.