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Disclosure of criminal past to offender's family members

An individual complained to this Office that a Correctional Service Canada (CSC) employee disclosed information about his criminal past to members of his family (including his young children who were previously unaware of their father's past) and to the public. A number of years ago the individual had been incarcerated in the same federal institution where the officer worked and he alleged that the officer disclosed confidential information obtained in the course of his duties.

The individual had also filed a complaint with CSC, which in turn conducted its own investigation. From the outset, the complainant never wavered in his statements that the officer disclosed his personal information. The officer maintained that it was not he who made the remarks, but rather a friend who was present at the time the disclosure took place - an individual he refused to identify either to us or to CSC. All of our efforts to locate the friend met with negative results. Still, based on all of the information we gathered during our investigation, the former Commissioner was prepared to find that the rights afforded the complainant under the Privacy Act had been violated as a direct result of the officer's actions. Indeed, CSC concluded that the officer had contravened its Code of Discipline and that he failed to observe the provisions of the Privacy Act; he was subsequently suspended for 15 days without pay.

Before rendering his final decision in the matter, the former Commissioner questioned CSC's rationale for concluding that a three-week suspension was appropriate to the circumstances. It was only then that we learned that new developments in the case had caused CSC to reverse its decision and withdraw the officer's suspension. Given the disciplinary action meted out to the officer, his friend had come forward saying that it was he who had disclosed the complainant's personal information, not the officer. While not fully convinced of the friend's credibility - and despite apprehensions in that regard - CSC nevertheless withdrew the suspension.

In light of this new information we conducted further inquiries but found no reason to believe the friend's version of events. Based on the evidence we obtained, the former Commissioner concluded that it was the officer who disclosed the individual's personal information and that his friend likely only came forward because the repercussions to the officer turned out to be greater than anticipated. The former Commissioner therefore found the complaint well-founded and asked that CSC reconsider the reversal of its decision.

The former Commissioner also advised CSC that it should have advised our officials that the officer's friend had finally come forward after all of the attempts of both CSC and this Office had failed to find him. The former Commissioner considered this to be an extremely important development, one which caused CSC to reverse its initial decision and one which could obviously have had a direct bearing on his decision. CSC was well aware that we had an active investigation into the allegations made by the complainant and, in the former Commissioner's view, CSC should have immediately alerted our officials to the change of events. The former Commissioner received assurances that this was an isolated incident which would not reoccur.

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