Annual Report on the Privacy Act for the Period Ending March 31, 2011
2. Key Activities and Accomplishments
2.1 Education and Training
In 2010–2011, the ATIP Office prepared a comprehensive plan to educate its own staff, Elections Canada employees in Ottawa and field staff in their responsibilities under the privacy statute and policies, through classroom and on-line methods.
A total of eight privacy training sessions were delivered to Elections Canada staff. These included sessions on the fundamental concepts of privacy and the duty to assist requesters under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. Elections Canada’s operations group also trained 88 newly appointed returning officers and assistant returning officers in their ATIP responsibilities through an on-line module.
New educational material was published on Elections Canada’s public Web site and on its intranet site. The Web site informs the public of their rights under the access and privacy statutes, as well as the responsibility of Elections Canada to assist the public with their requests. Annual reports on the agency’s administration of the Acts and a link to the organization’s Info Source chapter are also on the Web site. The intranet site provides agency staff with training materials and guidance to help them fulfill their ATIP responsibilities.
2.2 Institutional Privacy Policies and Procedures
During this reporting period, the ATIP Office developed guidance documents for information-sharing agreements in response to new Treasury Board guidelines on data sharing. Several long-standing agreements were reviewed and will be updated to reflect these guidelines.
In response to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner’s 2009 audit report Privacy Management Frameworks of Selected Federal Institutions, Elections Canada developed an approach to address privacy breaches. Senior management ratification of the process is anticipated in 2011–2012.
Elections Canada also revised its guidelines on use of the voters lists provided at specific times to candidates, political parties and members of Parliament. Voters lists are distributed pursuant to the Canada Elections Act, which also sets limits on how the information can be used. Notable improvements to the document Guidelines on Use of the Lists of Electors from the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, which accompanies the voters lists, were the extension of the target audience to candidates and an elaboration of best practices for the protection of personal information.
In addition, Elections Canada updated its Web site in order to provide electors with detailed information regarding the National Register of Electors, including their rights to be included or removed from the Register as well as how personal information will be used and disclosed.
2.3 Information-Sharing Agreements
The Chief Electoral Officer has the authority, pursuant to section 44 of the Canada Elections Act, to maintain a registry of Canadians who qualify as electors. This registry is known as the National Register of Electors and contains more information than the lists of electors distributed to candidates, political parties and members of Parliament. The Register contains the name, address, sex, date of birth and a randomly generated unique identifier for each elector.
The Register is updated with information supplied by federal, provincial and territorial data sources and by electors themselves (section 46 of the Act). Elections Canada has agreements with data suppliers including the Canada Revenue Agency, Canada Post Corporation, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and provincial and territorial registrars of motor vehicles and vital statistics.
Elections Canada also provides the information in the Register, in accordance with section 55 of the Act, to any body responsible under provincial or territorial law for establishing a list of electors. Such information-sharing agreements must include conditions regarding the use and protection of the personal information being shared.
Elections Canada has two-way data-sharing agreements with all provincial and territorial electoral agencies except for those in Saskatchewan and Yukon. The agreements allow Elections Canada to receive and share data with these electoral authorities. In the cases of Saskatchewan and Yukon, agreements have been negotiated to receive data but not to provide any in return. Elections Canada also has two-way information-sharing agreements with some municipalities, for example, the City of Winnipeg, to share data for electoral purposes.
2.4 Privacy Impact Assessments
Significant inroads have been made to bring privacy considerations to the forefront of institutional planning at Elections Canada. The Information Management/Information Technology Committee has been mandated to consider privacy in its review and oversight of new project initiatives. Also in the context of project planning, senior managers must ensure that PIAs are considered and completed where necessary in any project for which they are responsible. The roles and responsibilities regarding PIAs have been clarified and a PIA guide is now available to all employees on Elections Canada’s intranet site.
While the six assessments begun in the reporting period found substantial compliance with privacy principles and requirements, they also identified areas for improvement. One such area is in fully documenting processes that illustrate how program activities meet privacy principles mandated by the Privacy Act. No assessments were concluded during the reporting period.
2.5 Human Resources and Staffing
A substantial assessment of the skills and resources needed to administer the ATIP legislation was conducted during the reporting year. The ATIP Office has relied on a combination of seconded staff, consultants and students since its creation. Steps were taken to solidify its small employee base in 2010–2011, including the conclusion of several competitive processes.
In close collaboration with Elections Canada’s Human Resources Sector, the ATIP Office developed a skills development program for ATIP agents. This program, which is in line with Elections Canada’s Human Resources Strategy, would focus on the acquisition and development of skills through training, both in the classroom and on the job.