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Information and Privacy Commissioner releases Review Report 16-13

An applicant sought access to records relating to his father's prison term.  The Department of Justice (Department) disclosed portions of two of the 24 pages to the applicant.  The Department denied access to the names of correctional officers.  It argued that releasing this information would lead to correctional officers facing pressure to import contraband and thereby harm law enforcement.  The Department denied access to the administrative forms used to manage the applicant's father's prison term, claiming disclosure would be unreasonable of the father's privacy.

The Commissioner finds that the Department's evidence did not establish that the anticipated harms to law enforcement were more than merely possible.  She recommends disclosure of the correctional officers' names.

The Commissioner finds that the template material from the forms was not personal information and therefore the Department could not apply the third party personal information exemption to the information.  Finally, the Commissioner finds that the disclosure of the father's personal information would not be an unreasonable invasion of his privacy and recommends full disclosure.  The evidence the applicant supplied showed a relationship of trust between the applicant and his father.  The Commissioner finds the personal information involved - once the fact of the father's incarceration had already been disclosed - was not highly sensitive.  In addition, the applicant's demonstrated knowledge of his father's circumstances evinced a compassionate consideration supporting disclosure.  Read more...


NEWS RELEASE

December 6, 2016

HALIFAX - Today Nova Scotia's Information and Privacy Commissioner, Catherine Tully, joined with all her federal and provincial colleagues to make a formal submission to the federal government's public consultation on Canada's national security framework.

The submission calls for effective oversight as well as reasonable and proportionate rules for investigating agencies.  The ability of the national security aparatus to intrude on Nova Scotians' privacy is significant, and the call for effective safeguards can help protect Nova Scotians' privacy rights.

The submission underscores issues with significant implications for the privacy of Canadians, including the collection and use of metadata by national security agencies as well as law enforcement; encryption; and information sharing by government.  It also stresses the importance of transparency reporting and effective oversight, particularly for institutions not currently subject to expert review.  The full submission is available on the website of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada: http.www.priv.gc.ca/en 

Read the full submission here:  Consultation on Canada's National Security Framework  


NEWS RELEASE

November 23, 2016

Commissioner's investigation determines that faxing failures put sensitive mental health information at risk.

HALIFAX - Three separate breaches of sensitive mental health information have led Nova Scotia's Information and Privacy Commissioner, Catherine Tully, to call for improvements in how the health system transmits personal health information.  In a new report issued today, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) examined three separate incidents in 2015 and 2016 in which mental health referral forms were mistakenly faxed to a private business.  The report draws attention to the obligations private practice physicians and the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) have to ensure that personal health information in their control is transmitted carefully. Read more...

Read Investigation Report IR16-02


Information and Privacy Commissioner releases Review Report 16-12

The applicant sought access to the amount of money paid to a former South Shore Regional School Board (School Board) employee to settle a series of legal disputes.  The School Board refused to disclose the information, claiming that disclosure would consititute an unreasonable invasion of privacy and harm the economic interests of the Province. The School Board also claimed that settlement privilege at common law applied and refused disclosure on that basis.  The employee's Union became a party, supporting the initial decision of the School Board.  The Union further objected to disclosure on the basis that disclosure would reveal confidential labour relations information.

The Commissioner finds that the amount of money paid as part of the settlement agreement was remuneration of a public body employee and so disclosure of the information is not an unreasonable invasion of privacy.  The other terms of the agreement had previously been made public by the School Board's actions, and so any privacy interest on behalf of the employee was significantly diminished.  Disclosure would therefore not constitute an unreasonable invasion of privacy.  The Commissioner finds the evidence of harm to either economic interests or labour relations insufficient in the circumstances to meet the requirements of the exemptions.

The Commissioner determines that the legislature intended the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPOP) to be an exhaustive code with respect to restrictions on the right of access to government information.  She finds that FOIPOP does not permit the addition of a free-standing exemption based upon the common law regarding settlement privilege.

The Commissioner recommends full disclosure of the records.  Read more...


Public Event November 15, 2016: Freedom of Information - Does it Work?

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for Nova Scotia has rescheduled the event that was unfortunately cancelled during Right to Know Week.

We've partnered with the Centre for Law and Democracy, the University of King's College School of Journalism and Dalhousie University's School of Information Management to host a panel discussion of experienced FOI users as they debate what is and is not working in Nova Scotia's access to information regime.  They will provide practical information based on their years of experience using Nova Scotia's access to information laws.

Moderated by the University of King's College's Fred Vallence-Jones, the discussion panel will include David MacKenzie of the NSGEU; Rachel Ward, CBC Reporter; and Kevin Lacey, Atlantic Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The event will take place Tuesday, November 15, 2016 from 6:30 to 8:00pm at Dalhousie University's McCain Hall, Auditorium 1, 6135 University Avenue in Halifax.

All are welcome to attend.  Commissioner Tully and her staff look forward to seeing you there.

View the event poster here: Freedom of Information - Does It Work? 


Information and Privacy Commissioner releases Review Report 16-10

An applicant sought access to details of a loan offer between the Province of Nova Scotia and Irving Shipbuilding.  The Department of Business (Department) withheld information claiming that certain portions of the records were "not responsive" to the access request. The Department claimed that disclosure of certain other information would variously harm the Department's economic interests, harm the business interests of a third party business, and unreasonably invade the personal privacy of third party individuals.  

The Commissioner finds that none of the reasons for withholding information were established, and recommends full disclosure. Read more... 


Information and Privacy Commissioner releases Review Report 16-11

An applicant sought access to details of a loan offer between the Province of Nova Scotia and Irving Shipbuilding.  The Executive Council Office withheld information claiming that certain portions of the records were "not responsive" to the access request. The Executive Council Office claimed that disclosure of certain other information would variously harm the government's economic interests, harm the business interests of a third party business, and unreasonably invade the personal privacy of third party individuals.  The Executive Council Office's representations relied on those provided by the Department of Business and considered in Review Report 16-10.

The Commissioner finds that none of the reasons for withholding information were established, and recommends full disclosure. Read more... 


Access & Privacy - A Councillor's Guide

The OIPC has created a new guide to support newly-elected councillors understand their access and privacy obligations under the Municipal Government Act (MGA).  The purpose of the guide is to give new councillors an accessible, high-level overview of important access and privacy rules they must be aware of, as well as direction for who to contact for further assistance.

Access & Privacy - A Councillor's Guide

Access & Privacy - Councillor's Q&As


Personal Health Information Act Review Recommendations  

The Personal Health Information Act (PHIA) is undergoing a review by the Minister of Health and Wellness, the Honourable Leo Glavine.  Since June 2013 the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has dealt with a total of 1750 matters related to PHIA.  As a result of this experience, we identified seven areas where PHIA requires improvement to better serve Nova Scotians.  To read a letter to Minister Glavine and a detailed explanation for each of our recommendations, click here.

PHIA Review Recommendations


New/Updated Publications Now Available

Access & Privacy - A Councillor's Guide 

PHIA Review Recommendations 

Instant Messaging and Personal Email Accounts Guide

Government Disclosures Available Online

Guide to OIPC NS Processes (PDF)

PHIA - Rules Summary and Checklist for Custodians (PDF)