Protection of personal information | Government slow to appoint new watchdog

(Ottawa) The opposition parties denounce the slowness of Justin Trudeau’s government to appoint a new privacy commissioner. Daniel Therrien retired on Friday, but his mandate had already been renewed for a year, which should have left enough time to find a successor.

Posted yesterday at 5:18 p.m.

Mylene Crete

Mylene Crete
The Press

“Again, they don’t seem to give priority to independent agents who watch over the government,” New Democratic Party (NDP) Ethics Critic Matthew Green said in an interview.

The Information Commissioner, Caroline Maynard, has combined the two functions since Saturday. She will serve as privacy commissioner until October 31 if a successor is not named before then.

At the Prime Minister’s office, it is indicated that we will have “more to say on this subject in due time”.

“It’s a position that can’t stay unoccupied for long because there are very important current issues and for which time matters, indicated to The Press Bloc Québécois MP René Villemure. Now it’s the Wild West when it comes to coaching. »

“It is imperative that the Liberal government immediately appoint its permanent successor to help protect the privacy rights of Canadians,” said Conservative MP James Bezan.

“This is particularly relevant as the Liberals push forward legislation like Bill S-7 that would allow Canada Border Services Agency officers to search Canadians’ phones in cases of ‘generally reasonable concern’ – a a term that does not appear anywhere else in Canadian criminal or civil law. »

In his last interview at The Press, the former privacy commissioner, Daniel Therrien, had not hidden his impatience. “I think it’s late,” he admitted.

This appointment is all the more expected as the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, must table a bill before the end of parliamentary work to create a Digital Charter. This legislation would aim to better protect consumer privacy.

As a general rule, the Privacy Commissioner is invited to testify before a parliamentary committee to comment on this type of bill and indicate whether there are improvements to be made.

“Current laws are clearly deficient,” said Mr. Therrien in an interview on Friday. The private sector law dates back five years before Facebook entered the scene; the law of the public sector dates from the 1980s where the fax was to be used, probably. »

Matthew Green believes it will be difficult for the Information Commissioner to combine two such important roles. “We know that she is already under-resourced and that she is managing as many requests as she can,” he noted.

The scenario is the same at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, which would need to double its annual budget of 30 million, according to its ex-leader.

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