OPC Statement of Intent

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Federal-Provincial-Territorial Meeting
Victoria, British Columbia
February 2008


The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) oversees compliance with federal personal data protection legislation—namely the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.  The Office is dedicated to protecting and promoting the privacy rights of individuals.  Our powers include: investigating complaints and conducting audits, reporting on the personal information-handling practices of organizations and promoting awareness and understanding of privacy issues.

For the OPC to effectively achieve its mandate, we believe that it is important that we work with our provincial and territorial counterparts.  Cooperation among Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial privacy commissioners and ombuds offices is fundamental to promoting and protecting the privacy rights of individuals.  National flows of personal information are increasing in terms of complexity and quantity.  This leads to new challenges with respect to the protection of personal information.  We believe that by acting collectively and collaboratively with provincial and territorial privacy commissioners and ombuds offices, the OPC can have a more positive impact on the federal government, organizations and the public.

The OPC intends to initiate greater cooperation with provincial and territorial offices by working more collaboratively with them on public sector and private sector compliance, education, and policy matters.  We will more effectively share information with our counterparts in other jurisdictions about what we are doing in these areas.  Persons responsible for federal-provincial-territorial cooperation will be designated in the OPC.

In striving to better coordinate our efforts with the provinces and territories, we have set the following objectives with regard to the federal public sector:

  1. Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs)—Where appropriate and with the permission of the originating federal department or agency, the OPC will consult provincial/territorial privacy commissioners or ombuds offices on PIAs that significantly impact provincial/territorial or concurrent areas of jurisdiction.  Likewise, the OPC will encourage other federal government departments and agencies that conduct PIAs having a strong impact on provincial/territorial interests or concerns to consult the offices of provincial/territorial privacy commissioners or ombudspersons.  The OPC will also provide to provincial/territorial privacy commissioners or ombuds offices ancillary documentation developped by the Office in relation to PIAs it has received (e.g. OPC official responses to PIAs).
  2. Federal Legislation Affecting Provincial Interests—Where appropriate and with the permission of the originating federal department or agency, the OPC will consult the offices of provincial/territorial privacy commissioners and ombudspersons on proposed federal legislation that has significant implications for the collection, use or disclosure of personal information within a province or territory, to the extent that we are able to disclose information on draft legislation. 
  3. Treasury Board of Canada Guidance—Where appropriate and with the permission of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, the OPC will consult its provincial and territorial counterparts whenever it is in turn consulted by the Treasury Board Secretariat on the development of guidance or policies that may impact provincial or territorial interests (e.g. Treasury Board’s recent guidelines on Information Sharing Agreements). 

In sharing material with its provincial/territorial counterparts, the OPC will expect its counterparts to exercise discretion and due diligence in the use, disclosure and safe keeping of said material. 

A more detailed memorandum of understanding related to cooperation on private sector policy, education, and enforcement activities will be developed at a later date.  Specific objectives regarding private sector cooperation will be elaborated in this document.

The OPC plans to continue to make every effort at improving how it works collaboratively with our counterparts in the provinces and territories by increasing communication and public education efforts and identifying opportunities for joint interventions.  We intend to explore how our investigative approaches and processes may be better harmonized with those of our counterparts and to examine possible collaborative projects on cutting-edge research and policy issues.

It is our belief that collaborative endeavors between federal, provincial and territorial privacy commissioners and ombuds offices should be founded on a spirit of respect for one another’s jurisdictional roles and responsibilities, and should be characterized by reciprocity on the part of all parties involved.

Nothing in this document will restrict the OPC’s discretion in deciding on the manner and timing of consultative initiatives, and/or fetter the OPC’s policy positions and public interventions.

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