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Information collected without consent in suspected fraud case

A woman complained that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) violated her privacy rights when it investigated an overpayment of benefits without first approaching her. She said HRSDC staff collected joint bank account statements and banking information and contacted her former employer.

The complainant was receiving maternity and parental benefits under the Employment Insurance program. HRSDC was notified the complainant had been hired by a company and determined she was working, but continuing to collect Employment Insurance benefits because she had not disclosed her income. HRSDC decided the complainant’s actions warranted prosecution for an overpayment of $5,000 in benefits. As part of an investigation, the department asked the woman’s bank for records showing she had been receiving EI payments and wages at the same time. An investigator also asked her employer for payroll and employment information.

The complainant admitted to the allegations but claimed hardship due to the medical condition of her spouse. She argued HRSDC should have notified her before collecting her personal information. The department stated it acted within its legislated authority and added that notifying people prior to an investigation could result in the collection of inaccurate information.

The complaint was not well-founded. HRSDC had the legal authority to collect the information without the complainant’s knowledge or consent in an investigation of that nature.

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