Letter to the Editor by Democracy Watch Coordinator Tyler Sommers published in the Hill Times on March 18, 2013
It is outrageous that federal Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Mario Dion continues to refuse to identify federal government employees found guilty of wrongdoing.
Mr. Dion continues to say that federal privacy law prohibits him from identifying the three federal government employees he has found guilty of violating federal laws or codes. The law clearly allows their identities to be disclosed if it is in the public interest, and it is always in the public interest to disclose the identity of wrongdoers.
Recently, Mr. Dion refused to disclose the name of the Department of Foreign Affairs wrongdoer, and a journalist found out that CIDA had hired the wrongdoer after he resigned from his Foreign Affairs job. This situation shows very clearly that failing to name individuals guilty of violating federal government rules and laws can lead to them resigning from their job and keeping their wrongdoing secret when applying for other jobs—which is not in any way in the public interest.
Democracy Watch has filed a complaint with the federal Information Commissioner’s Office asking her to issue a public statement that it is both legal, and in the public interest, to disclose the identity of federal government employees found guilty of wrongdoing.
This is not just a problem with the integrity commissioner—the identities of dozens of federal government wrongdoers have been kept secret by other officers of Parliament and enforcement agencies in recent years, even though all of their identities can legally be disclosed.
Section 8 of the federal Privacy Act, and corresponding section 19 of the federal Access to Information Act, make it very clear that anyone’s personal information, including their identity, may be disclosed if it is in the public interest, as follows.
The federal Privacy Act, subsection 8(1) and clause 8(2)(m)(i) states:
“Disclosure of personal information
8. (1) Personal information under the control of a government institution shall not, without the consent of the individual to whom it relates, be disclosed by the institution except in accordance with this section.
Where personal information may be disclosed
(2) Subject to any other Act of Parliament, personal information under the control of a government institution may be disclosed . . .
(m) for any purpose where, in the opinion of the head of the institution,
(i) the public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs any invasion of privacy that could result from the disclosure, . . .”
The federal Access to Information Act, subsection 19(1) and clause 19(2)(c) states:
“19. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the head of a government institution shall refuse to disclose any record requested under this Act that contains personal information as defined in section 3 of the Privacy Act.
Where disclosure authorized
(2) The head of a government institution may disclose any record requested under this Act that contains personal information if . . .
(c) the disclosure is in accordance with section 8 of the Privacy Act.”
Democracy Watch’s Open Government Campaign