GN needs ‘attitude change’ in disclosing information: privacy commissioner

MLAs to discuss the information and privacy commissioner’s annual report next week

Graham Steele, Nunavut’s information and privacy commissioner, wants to see MLAs understand the issues laid out in his annual report and press ministers to do more. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Nunavut government needs an “attitude change” in its views on sharing information with the public — something the territory’s information and privacy commissioner hopes to see progress on next week in the legislature.

MLAs will meet for a day and a half Monday and Tuesday to discuss Graham Steele’s 2021-2022 annual report on information and privacy in the GN.

“Information is like the blood of the government,” Steele said in an interview with Nunatsiaq News.

“If citizens are going to believe in their government … the people of Nunavut need to know what their government is doing. And that means releasing information that needs to be released.”

One topic covered in Steele’s report is bringing municipalities under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which he has discussed with Iqaluit city council and the Nunavut Association of Municipalities.

Residents deserve to know what their municipalities are doing, but there’s no law saying that the hamlets have to share, he said.

Steele pointed to the Iqaluit water emergency last fall as an example where, he said, the City of Iqaluit released some information because it wanted to, not because it legally had to.

Most communities in Nunavut, though, already operate with small staffs and have other more pressing issues to deal with.

“Their main concern when they wake up in the morning is making sure that the water truck is on the road and the sewage truck is on the road,” Steele said.

If hamlets are to be brought under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, it will have to be done carefully so they aren’t set up for failure, he said.

That includes teaching them good information management practices and the GN providing resources so they can fulfil information requests.

The Department of Community and Government Services said it is working on that now, Steele said.

“I want the municipalities to want it and I want them to be ready for it,” he said.

Other topics covered in the report that may be brought up next week are some departments’ failures at following the law, and others such as the Health Department that set a good example for disclosing information.

Steele said he wants the authority to order the release of information given to the commissioner, which hasn’t been done because of the GN’s other priorities such as housing availability and, he added, one other reason.

“The second reason is I know that there are some people in government who are afraid that the commissioner will make a bad decision and they don’t want to have to obey,” he said, adding commissioner’s orders can be taken to court and overruled.

Steele said that in his role he’s only a servant of the MLAs and that it’s up to them to understand the issues he’s presented and to press ministers to do better.

“I’m going to ask them to do the work that only they can do,” he said.

“If they listen to me and do nothing, well, that’s a message to the GN about what the MLAs think needs to be done.”

The hearings Monday and Tuesday of the legislative assembly’s standing committee on oversight of government operations and public accounts will be televised.

The first session opens Monday at 1:30 p.m. and can be viewed on local community cable stations, on Bell on channel 513, on Shaw on channels 289 or 489. They will also be livestreamed at http://video.isilive.ca/nunavut.

On FM radio, they will be available from the floor at 92.5, in Inuktitut at 94.7 and in English at 102.1.

 

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Paul on

    GN needs to change on so many levels it’s not funny anymore!
    The situation with our government is getting worse, our government has been moving in the wrong direction for years and what will it take to make improvements and actually have a functioning government that’s proactive and works to make things better?

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  2. Posted by Attude Change on

    Yes, the GN needs an attitude change.
    It needs to start listening to and trusting its employees.
    It needs to get serious about hiring Inuit and providing real training.
    It needs to reduce the use of consultants.
    It needs to start writing its own reports.
    It needs to get past aspiring and start actually accomplishing.
    The GN has to realize it has very little confidential information. Indeed, it has very little information. That’s because its systems were not set up to collect information.
    The Minister of Education might be able to tell you how many students graduated from high school last year. But could anyone tell you how many Inuit were academic graduates in 2020, and how many of those went on to university?
    The Minister of Health might be able to tell you how many Nunavummiut were seen at clinics last year. But could anyone tell you how many Nunavummiut were cured of a venereal disease tuberculosis in Nunavut in 2019?

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    • Posted by Almost Perfect on

      Agree with the above, except the hiring of Inuit statement – this government is super-serious about that, almost to the exclusion of anything else. For example, look at the incredible number of positions being left unfilled rather than hire a non-Inuit, or positions being left unfilled for your while cherry-picked Inuit are groomed or completing education.

      You could argue whether this is beneficial or ethical or not, but you can’t really argue that it’s not a government priority.

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      • Posted by Attitude Change on

        If the GN really was serious about hiring Inuit, the GN would have entry level positions for Inuit graduates.
        .
        Read the job postings on the GN job site. Almost all of them require several years of experience. That experience is not available in Nunavut. You need to graduate, from high school, from NAC, or from a southern institution. Then you need to get a job down south for a few years. But most Inuit do not have the money for the plane ticket to that southern job.
        .
        The GN requires that job, but the GN’s public assistance rules make getting that job almost impossible.
        .
        There are many ways in which the GN makes it very difficult for Inuit to get GN jobs, unless you have a parent working for the GN. Even then, it’s far from easy.

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        • Posted by Observation Post on

          I don’t agree with this at all, Inuit occupy nearly all entry level jobs and what counts as experience can easily be gained in the community and what counts as education can be gained through Arctic College, whether it is up to par or not.

          Also, the idea that the government does not take hiring Inuit seriously is not true. They are, frankly, obsessed with it, to a flaw.

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        • Posted by What colour is the sky in your world? on

          If you are an Inuk and a recent NAC grad you stand a better chance than anyone on the planet of getting an entry level position with the GN. This is a fact.

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        • Posted by Human Resources on

          Yes, Inuit occupy almost all the entry level jobs in the GN. And yes, being an Inuk makes you much more likely to get an entry level GN job.
          .
          But there are not a lot of entry level jobs. And worse, there are very few entry level jobs for teachers, nurses, and other professionals. Most of the positions on the GN Jobs website read, “professional wanted, must have the following educational qualifications, plus xx years of experience in a similar position.” That experience is not available in Nunavut.
          .
          The result is that Inuit do get into the available entry level jobs, a few get promoted to manager, then director, then ADM. But all that most of them know is administration. They are not able to provide leadership, because they do not have the practical background.
          .
          Sad, but true.

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  3. Posted by Voter on

    Communications = disclosure leading to trust, etc.

    Why are all GN paid travellers not listed on the GN website? Just as those who have to fill forms to provide reason, the voters, the taxpayers should see. Our Premier is great at communicating and showing where he is and why, etc. (whether you agree with the trip or not). Why not ALL GN employees? If there is nothing to hide, there is nothing to hide. (except that one Northern Lights Trade Show year)

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  4. Posted by Maq-Pat on

    Steele’s predecessor (RIP) made many-many recommendation in her long tenure, some were various degrees of impractical or even wrong (ex: as late as 2015, advocating a return to faxes over email). Any Gov decision to disagree with a watchdog recommendation is public record, they’re not made lightly. Considering how strained Nunavut Legal system is, I would not ask them to police the relationships between the GN and it’s watchdogs.

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