Building on a Positive Relationship

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Remarks at an ATIP Community Breakfast

June 23, 2011
Ottawa, Ontario

Address by Jennifer Stoddart
Privacy Commissioner of Canada

(Check against delivery)

Thank you everyone for being together.  It’s wonderful to have this opportunity to come together to share experiences and exchange ideas.

It’s also a chance to thank you for your important work.  As guardians of access to information and privacy, you protect principles that are at the very heart of democratic society. 

I know that it’s a tough job and that – the odd time – it may seem as if your role is not fully appreciated by colleagues in other departmental branches.

My Office has a positive relationship with your community and this event is part of an ongoing dialogue that occurs on a daily basis.

We fully understand that your jobs are challenging and we want to be as helpful as we possibly can.

As some of you may know, my Office recently undertook a qualitative research project involving interviews with a sample of ATIP officers. 

We wanted to better understand the challenges and the new and emerging privacy issues that you are facing.  We also wanted to know how the ATIP community views its interactions with my Office and how you see our role.

It’s probably no surprise to any of you on the ATIP front lines that some of the commonly identified key challenges were Privacy Impact Assessments; operational challenges such as the amount of personal information being used and shared daily; as well as staffing issues such as a lack of people and retention.

We were heartened to hear positive reviews of the resources and tools we have developed; and about your interactions with my staff.

Many ATIP officers express the view that my Office should play a leading role in terms of providing support, education and guidance on privacy-related issues.

Some said they’d like to receive more concrete advice about particular sets of circumstances.

There is plenty we can do – and are doing – to reach out to your community – and to the federal government community as a whole.

For example, we’ve been extremely pleased with the feedback we’ve received on the guide we released a few months ago on submitting Privacy Impact Assessments to my Office.  It’s essentially a roadmap on completing PIAs.

We offered workshops on PIAs for federal government employees in March here in Ottawa as well as at the International Association of Privacy Professionals’ conference in Toronto last month.

In response to comments we heard during the Ottawa event, we are now developing a plan to offer more practical, “hands on” training on how to complete a PIA.  That workshop will likely take place in late fall.

We’re very open to recommendations from you on how to make that event as useful as possible.  We have a few members of our PIA review group here this morning.

We are also continuing to explore ways to expand the dialogue with the federal public sector. 

We will increase our participation in public sector events and, in the coming months, will be reaching out to publications aimed at public servants in order to try to raise the profile of privacy issues.

We’re happy that you’re using existing tools – and we’d like to hear your ideas for further resources that could help make your jobs easier.

I would also encourage you to reach out to the broader privacy and access community – attend Privacy After Hours events and take part in conferences and learning opportunities offered by groups such as the I-A-P-P, the Canadian Access and Privacy Association, or the Canadian Association of Professional Access and Privacy Administrators.  These types of events always offer food for thought and ideas for taking new approaches to issues.

And, finally, thank you so much for coming to this event. 

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