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Letter to BC and Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioners

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The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart, sent the following letter to Mr. Frank Work, Information and Privacy Commissioner for Alberta, and Mr. David Loukidelis, Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, regarding the handling of complaints under PIPEDA as of January 1, 2004.

March 11, 2004

Mr. Frank Work
Information and Privacy Commissioner
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner
4th floor 9925,109 Street
Edmonton AB T5K 2J8

Mr. David Loukidelis
Information & Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner
PO Box 9038, STN Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9A4

Dear Mr. Work and Mr. Loukidelis:

Handling of complaints under PIPEDA as of January 1, 2004

This letter will serve to confirm the discussions we had in Ottawa on January 21, 2004 concerning our current and future handling of complaints by our Office where the complaint is against an organization in, as the case may be, British Columbia or Alberta.

Our understanding is as follows:

  • Until the BC and Alberta Personal Information Protection Acts (PIPAs) are, respectively, declared to be substantially similar by the Governor in Council;
  1. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) has a legal obligation to apply the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) where appropriate.
  2. OPC will take complaints against private sector organizations in BC and Alberta that are collecting, using or disclosing personal information about their customers in the course of commercial activity. This includes organizations that deal in personal health information such as physicians and dentists' offices, private laboratories, etc.
  3. OPC will verbally inform complainants of the possibility of complaining directly to the appropriate provincial commissioner and that complaints which fall clearly in provincial rather than federal jurisdiction, after a substantially similar order, will be transferred in any event.
  4. If the complainant wishes nevertheless to proceed federally, OPC will open a complaint file but will inform all parties to the complaint that there will be a transfer of the complaint and all information on the file to the appropriate provincial commissioner if and when a substantially similar order is made.
  • OPC will continue, after any substantially similar order is made, to take complaints concerning federal works, undertakings and businesses (FWUBs), including complaints about employee personal information and information about job applicants to FWUBs.
  • Complaints involving inter-provincial issues will be handled by OPC in accordance with the following principles.
  1. Before the making of a substantially similar order, the complaints will be handled as per (2) above in all cases unless the complaint is substantially about the crossing of inter-provincial boundaries or the issue otherwise falls under OPC's jurisdiction.
  2. After the making of a substantially similar order, complaints will be handled as per arrangements which we will continue to develop between OPC and your respective offices.
  • Our offices are also currently discussing the following issues:
  1. arrangements to share the contents of complaints files where circumstances warrant and consistent with our respective legal authorities and obligations;
  2. harmonization of statistical reporting and language for such reporting where possible;
  3. development of joint statements, questions and answers, and jurisdictional tools where possible.

The arrangements set out above reflect current practices in our respective offices, but may change over time. In light of that, we have each agreed to name individuals in our respective offices to engage in day-to-day discussions on issues as they arise. We also agree to keep the channels of communication open at the most senior levels and will attempt to meet as frequently as required and possible.

We are pleased that we have been able to reach these understandings and look forward to continuing to work with you to effectively protect the privacy rights of individuals.

Yours sincerely,

Jennifer Stoddart
Privacy Commissioner of Canada

c.c. Provincial Commissioners

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