Nunavut making little progress on access to info changes

Stalled talks put the brakes on bringing municipalities under Privacy Act


The City of Iqaluit, and municipalities across Nunavut, are not yet covered by Nunavut's Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act but MLAs want that to change.

The City of Iqaluit, and municipalities across Nunavut, are not yet covered by Nunavut’s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act but MLAs want that to change.

The Government of Nunavut’s efforts to make the administration of its municipalities more transparent has stalled.

That’s because consultations with community governments on how to bring their operations under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act are at a “standstill,” according to Nunavut government documents.

“In the past year, consultations with municipalities have been at a standstill due to capacity issues within the ATIPP office,” the GN said in a document tabled March 15 in the Nunavut legislature.

In the document, the GN responds to 11 recommendations made by a standing committee of MLAs, which reviewed the 2014-15 annual report by Nunavut’s information and privacy commissioner.

The recommendations, therefore, deal with evolving access to information and privacy issues within government.

The MLAs directed their recommendations to the GN mostly, but some to the privacy commissioner as well.

A newly created second position within the ATIPP office would help consultations with community governments, the GN said in one response, but one of the main stakeholders — the Nunavut Association of Municipalities, or NAM — apparently had outstanding concerns.

“Although previous consultations seemed to be progressing well, especially within the City of Iqaluit, [NAM] has shown concerns with implementation, without providing details of the issues,” the report said.

MLAs had asked the government for a “detailed update” on its work with NAM, the Municipal Training Organization, and the privacy commissioner on how to implement the ATIPP Act at the municipal level.

MLAs had also asked for an update on the GN’s training programs for municipal staff to help with the effort.

But due to the “standstill,” the government was unable to provide any of those details.

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MLAs even suggested the minister of community and government services, whose department provides the budget for every community except Iqaluit, could step in to help with the privacy commissioner’s lack of capacity.

A similar role has been given to the Nunavut Housing Corp. minister as a result of recent amendments to the privacy and information legislation.

These changes brought local housing authorities, or LHAs, under the Act, MLAs said.

But the GN disagreed with that suggestion and said it is looking into other options.

“Unlike the relationship between LHAs and the Nunavut Housing Corp… municipalities are a third level of government, therefore making this a less desirable option,” the government said.

“The GN would like to assist municipalities in building an access and privacy function that is distinct from the territorial function,” the government said, and officials hope to prepare municipalities for implementation “in the near future.”

MLAs also recommended that the GN submit “comprehensive and specific amendments,” to the ATIPP Act to the privacy commissioner by Sept. 1, 2016, to modernize the legislation, incorporate Inuit societal values and address potential misuses of the Act.

“This timeline will allow [MLAs] to begin consideration of the recommendations during the televised hearing on the [privacy commissioner’s] 2015-16 annual report in the legislative assembly,” scheduled for later in the fall of 2016, the committee of MLAs wrote.

But the government did not commit to following that timeline.

“The GN is committed to providing the commissioner with support in pursuing this work,” the government said in response to that recommendation.

Among the other recommendations made by the standing committee of MLAs:

• the GN move towards including local District Education Authorities under the information and privacy Act;

• the privacy commissioner meet with the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit Katimajiit at least once to discuss issues related to access to information and protection of privacy;

• the privacy commissioner conduct a privacy audit on at least one GN department, crown agency or territorial corporation, to be included in her 2015-16 annual report; and,

• the GN provide a “detailed timeline” to introduce “health-specific privacy legislation.”

In response to the last recommendation, the GN said it began developing health-specific privacy legislation in 2015-16, and will assign a committee to continue working on that file in 2016-17.

The GN plans to introduce the legislation in 2019.

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