This is page numbers 41 - 72 of the Hansard for the 13th Assembly, 8th Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was information.

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Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 67

Stephen Kakfwi Sahtu

Thank you, Madam Chairperson. Madam Chairperson, the bill is necessary if we are to ensure that unique regimes and procedures respecting access to information and protection of privacy established in another legislation which were, in effect, prior to that coming into effect of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, remain operative after December 31, 1999.

The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, came into effect in 1996 and provided that, in the event of a conflict between the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and another act, the conflict would be resolved in favour of the other legislation for the period ending on December 31, 1998. After December 31, 1998, the conflict would be resolved in favour of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, unless the legislation in question specifically provided otherwise.

They revealed all legislation was undertaken by all public bodies to identify any provision that dealt with access or privacy of information and then to determine if the provision:

- could be continued given the Privacy of the Access Act,

- should be repealed, or

- whether it required an amendment with a notwithstanding clause so it could remain operative after December 31, 1999.

Following the review, a bill was introduced during the 6th Session. But on December 2, 1998, the Information and Privacy Commissioner sent a letter to the Standing Committee on Government Operations outlining concerns. Consequently, the bill was not passed, but the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, was amended to extend the deadline from December 31, 1998 to December 31, 1999.

This additional time gave departments a time to continue their review of all their legislation in light of the comments of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

The additional review was completed and consequently revisions were made to those provisions in the original bill, which would have amended the Education Act and the Motor Vehicles Act. A subsection was added to the Education Act to allow a school counsellor to grant access to his or her notes to the student or parents of the student if the counsellor is of the opinion it is in the best interest of the student. A subsection was added to the Motor Vehicle Act, to clarify that only vehicle registration information, not a person's driving record, could be provided to the entities identified in the bill.

A revised bill was prepared and introduced in July of this year, but the bill died on the order paper. Further amendments have been made to the July version of the bill with respect to the Consumer Protection Act, and the Tobacco Tax Act, in response to concerns expressed by the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Standing Committee.

Throughout this extensive review by departments, the Department of Justice worked with departments to ensure that the scope of the Access Act, was not unnecessarily limited and only the most limited number of provisions possible were given primacy over the Access Act. In fact, this bill amends only ten of the hundreds of GNWT statutes.

In some instances, it was determined that other legislation established a more compact and straightforward access or privacy regime than provided for in the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

In most cases, where the restriction on access is greater than the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the provisions deal with personal information. In other words, the tension between access to information and the protection of privacy is restored in favour of privacy. The advantage of giving primacy to the other legislation will be greater clarity and more precision.

This bill also provides for minor amendments to the Archives Act, and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Thank you.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 67

The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Thank you, Minister Kakfwi. I will now call on Mr. Erasmus, the chairman of the standing committee, which reviewed the bill, to give his remarks.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

September 9th, 1999

Page 67

Roy Erasmus Yellowknife North

Thank you, Madam Chairperson. Madam Chairperson, the Standing Committee on Government Operations reviewed Bill 4, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Statutes Amendment Act, had its meetings on September 7, 8, and 9, 1999. The committee would like to thank the Minister of Justice and his officials for presenting the bill and responding to the committee's questions. As well, the standing committee had previously reviewed versions of this bill that were introduced in the House in December, 1998 and July, 1999. When the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, came into effect in 1996, it provided for a two-year grace period so that if another act had a conflict or inconsistency with it, the other act would prevail until December 31, 1998. In December, 1998 the Minister introduced a bill to amend ten acts that have provisions that conflict or inconsistent with the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The proposed amendments allowed the access and provisions of the other acts to apply in addition to or notwithstanding the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The bill also proposed to amend the Archives Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, itself.

The standing committee held a public hearing and consulted with the Information and Privacy Commissioner appointed under the act, Ms. Elaine Keenan-Bengts. Due to the concerns raised by the Commissioner and the standing committee, particularly in relation to the privacy protection for personal information collected by public bodies, the original bill was not passed. Instead, a separate bill was passed to extend the grace period until December 1999.

The committee requested the Minister to examine the concerns to determine whether the bill might be improved in some areas. In July, 1999, a revised bill was introduced. This bill incorporated amendments responding to the committee's and the Commissioner's concerns about the Education Act, and the Motor Vehicles Act. A provision was added to the Education Act, to allow a school counsellor to give access to his or her notes to the student or the student's parents if the counsellor feels that it is in the best interest of the child.

The Motor Vehicles Act, amendments were changed to make it clear that access by various private bodies to records under the act would apply only to name and vehicle registration information, not to driving records.

The standing committee and the Information and Privacy Commissioner reviewed the revised bill and provided additional comments to the Minister. As a result, Bill 4 contains further revisions from the July bill. Changes were made to the amendments, to the Consumer Protection Act, and the Tobacco Tax Act, to clarify questions relating to the disclosure of information.

The standing committee appreciates the assistance of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the efforts of the Minister and the Department of Justice officials to improve this bill. The Minister has also made a commitment to the committee to address concerns relating to how information is collected by public bodies. The Minister advised that a process is under way to bring forms into compliance with the privacy protection provisions of the act so that individuals will better know what personal information is collected about them, how it is used and how to access personal information.

The committee also has an outstanding area of concern. Some of the acts amended by this bill, particularly the Insurance Act, and the Motor Vehicles Act, allow personal information to be released by public bodies to private individuals or organizations. If the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, applies only to public bodies, the Commissioner and the committee were concerned that there are no legislative restrictions on the further release of personal information by private bodies and no penalties for such release. This is an important privacy concern.

In the case of the Motor Vehicles Act, department officials suggested that an obligation of confidentiality might be implied under the act. In the committee's view, this is not clear enough. The Minister also undertook to research whether the prohibition in section 59 of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, against disclosing personal information might apply to private organizations or individuals. Members looked forward to receiving the results of this research.

If it is not clear that private individuals are included in section 59 prohibition, it is the committee's strong recommendation that the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, should be amended to create an offence and impose a penalty on private individuals or organizations who release personal information received in confidence from a public body.

Madam Chairperson, this concludes the standing committee's comments on Bill 4, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Statutes Amendment Act. Thank you.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 68

The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Thank you, Mr. Erasmus. I would like to ask the Minister if he would like to bring witnesses.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 68

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 68

The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Thank you. Does Committee agree?

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 68

Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 68

The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Thank you. Sergeant-at-Arms, could you please escort in the witnesses. Mr. Kakfwi. For the record, could you please introduce your witnesses?

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 68

Stephen Kakfwi Sahtu

Thank you, Madam Chairperson. On my right is assistant deputy minister of Justice, Mr. Gerry Sutton. On my left, from legislative counsel, Ms. Denise Gagnon.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 68

The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Thank you. General comments on the bill by Members. Mr. Krutko.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Madam Chairperson. I feel quite strongly that when we start infringing on people's rights or restricting them access to information that may affect them and also information about themselves, where someone else may be able to use it again them, or use it for capital gains through surveys, has to be taken seriously. I believe that now a days, in the computer age, where information is accessed through computers and also forms of information, Internet, that people's rights and people's privileges to privacy are slowly being stomped away by infringement on the right to be able to have information about yourself kept secret. Also, being able to access information without having it regulated to a point where you have to go to court to get it.

I feel that there are some problems that I mentioned in the committee on how I feel about certain things, especially when it comes to a parent and their child's education, the information that is taken on their children when they are attending school by counsellors, that they should, as a parent, know what is happening with their child at all times. Regardless if it is through the justice system or the education system. I believe that when it comes to governments and legislatures, sometimes we overlook the human side of issues and look at more in regards to policies and implementing acts and regulations, for the government to take on more power, but limiting the powers of the people. I feel that we have to always keep in mind who we are here to serve. Are we serve the government, the bureaucracy, industry, or businesses that take advantage of using information to benefit their profit margins or the shareholders they represent?

When it comes to accessing personal information, I believe the people do have the right to know what is happening to information that relates to themselves and not find out about it, say in a newspaper, or come by chance you looked in a phone book and next thing you find out that your address, your phone number, your date of birth and all the information that is relevant to you, shows up in an article because someone happened to legally, or illegally, access information on yourself. Once that information is stored either in a computer or put into a filing system, that information can be revealed or accessed by one agency which can turn around and sell it to another agency for a profit.

Without having penalties spelled out in this legislation, all they get is a slap on the wrist and told not to do it again. It is too late for the person that the information may have had a drastic effect on their lifestyle, the people they know and their other family members because this information has been leaked. I believe this legislation should have gone farther in ensuring the penalties are clearly spelled out. Those penalties were harsh enough that no information will ever be revealed legally or illegally, or used improperly on any individual person in the Northwest Territories.

I feel we should have taken more time to deal with this bill and allow for groups of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner and also interest groups would deal with the question of Charter of Rights and also the right to information through the new technologies that we have like computers, e-mail and also ensuring that we have a security system in place that any information taken will be private and no one will be able to access it. Allowing loop holes in legislation where people can take advantage of it, I believe has to be taken seriously and if we have to put teeth on any legislation that we put forth. With that, Madam Chairperson, thank you.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 69

The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Thank you, Mr. Krutko. Any further general comments on the bill? If there are no further general comments, we will proceed with clause by clause. It is Bill 4 in your green binders. Mr. Krutko.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

Madam Chairperson, I do not recognize the quorum.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Eight, including Mr. Kakfwi is a quorum. Clause by clause. Bill 4, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Statutes Amendment Act. Clause 1. Agreed?

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 69

Some Hon. Members

Agreed.