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Letter to Minister Anne McLellan regarding the Privacy Act review

The Honourable Anne McLellan P.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H8

Dear Minister McLellan,

We are writing to applaud your recent commitment to review the federal Privacy Act, and urge you to ensure that the review is a thorough one.

Like many Canadians, we were dismayed to find out that Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) was keeping a database like the Longitudinal Labour Force File (LLFF). We were pleased that the Minister of Human Resources and Development responded quickly to the deep public concern about the LLFF by announcing that it would be dismantled, and that better information management practices would be introduced in HRDC. The Minister of Human Resources and Development’s commitments address data protection in the context of HRDC’s social and labour market policy research, but a greater problem remains, which is that the federal Privacy Act actually permitted a database like LLFF to be amassed with little internal government oversight or clear disclosure of its existence to the public.

The LLFF controversy has shown that the Privacy Act needs to be strengthened to better protect consumers’ privacy rights. In particular, limitations on data matching need to be clarified and included in the Privacy Act. Also of great concern is the legal uncertainty about whether citizens’ rights as set out in the Act apply in the context of all federal government activities, or whether these rights can be infringed upon when permitted by other federal legislation.

The recent passage of the Protection of Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act was a great step foward for privacy protection in Canada. Now it is important to ensure that a similar standard of privacy protection is in place in the federal public sector. We urge you to undertake the Privacy Act review without delay, and to take seriously the results of the Privacy Commissioner’s review of the Act and his comprehensive recommendations on its amendment.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Janigan
Executive Director/
General Counsel

The Honourable John Manley, Minister of Industry
The Honourable Jane Stewart, Minister of Human Resources and Development
Bruce Phillips, Privacy Commissioner

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