Yukon Information and Privacy Commissioner
News Release: Information and Privacy Commissioner comments on Missing Persons Legislation
Tue, Sep 12, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SEPTEMBER 12, 2017
Missing persons legislation must balance access to information with privacy rights
Yukon Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay has informed the Yukon government that only limited provisions are needed in proposed missing persons legislation. With a few exceptions, her assessment of current privacy legislation indicates that it already allows RCMP to access required information in missing persons cases.
McLeod-McKay has provided comments as part of the Yukon government’s public consultation on missing persons legislation. The legislation is meant to expand the authority of the RCMP to gather relevant information for a missing persons investigation and to balance this expansion with individual rights to privacy.
“It is without dispute that timely access to information can be essential to protect a missing person from harm,” said McLeod-McKay. “I agree that while access to information is important in these circumstances, the right to privacy is equally important.”
McLeod-McKay notes that there are already four privacy laws in effect in Yukon, which have been carefully crafted to protect individual rights to privacy and also allow the collection, use and disclosure of personal information and personal health information for legitimate purposes, such as the location of a missing person. In her comments, she points out that the territory’s new health privacy law addresses this issue squarely.
“Adding another set of rules that must be deciphered when the RCMP request access to information may serve to counter the objectives of the proposed law and increase the likelihood of a privacy breach,” added McLeod-McKay.
McLeod-McKay recommends that the Yukon government review current legislation to find any gaps that might prevent RCMP from accessing information when necessary, and then craft the legislation to fill only those gaps. She also recommends the government develop outreach materials on the new law, once it is completed, and offer regular training to reduce the likelihood of problems related to poor training or staff turnover.
“Legislation currently in place already permits the disclosure of personal information and personal health information when harm may come to an individual or for the purpose of locating a missing person,” said McLeod-McKay. “The only gap is that disclosures are discretionary, meaning that a public body or custodian can decide not to share personal information necessary to locate the missing person. This gap could be filled with a provision that requires the disclosure of this information, if RCMP meet the thresholds for disclosure.”
The new legislation should limit the use and disclosure of the information collected by RCMP and identify a retention period for the information, to ensure its destruction when it is no longer needed, said McLeod-McKay. It should also include clear well-defined procedures, including a form, to prevent delays in responses and help with requirements to document disclosures.
McLeod-McKay has asked the Yukon government for the opportunity to review and comment on the draft missing persons legislation, once it is ready, as her comments at this point are less precise, having not seen a draft.
To view the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s comments in full, her letter can be viewed on her website.
The Ombudsman, Information and Privacy Commissioner and Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner is an independent officer of the Yukon Legislative Assembly. For more information, please go to www.ombudsman.yk.ca.