News Release - Manitoba

December 23, 2010


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Access and Privacy Rights Strengthened with Amendments to Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act: Marcelino

The Manitoba government has appointed its first information and privacy adjudicator to help resolve access and privacy complaints, Culture, Heritage and Tourism Minister Flor Marcelino announced today.
“The adjudicator will strengthen a system that gives Manitobans access to information they need while protecting their privacy,” said Marcelino. “We are acting on what Manitobans advised us to do in establishing a commission and updating our regulations.”
Marcelino announced Ron Perozzo, the provincial conflict of interest commissioner and registrar for the Lobbyists Registration Act in Manitoba, has been appointed Manitoba’s first information and privacy adjudicator. The position was created as a result of amendments to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) that come into effect on Jan. 1.
The minister said the current ombudsman model has worked well, successfully resolving 95 per cent of all access and privacy cases and raising public awareness about access and privacy issues. However, she said occasionally difficult cases may require an independent review by an adjudicator because the parties simply cannot come to a resolution.
The amendments to FIPPA provide the ombudsman with another method of resolving access and privacy complaints. The adjudicator will have the power to issue binding orders to government or other public bodies such as municipalities, school divisions or regional health authorities that don’t follow recommendations made by the ombudsman.
Marcelino said the government is also striving to improve the public’s access to information in other ways. Last year, more than 38 million files were downloaded over the course of 10.2 million visits to government websites and almost 89,000 inquiries went directly to Manitoba Government Inquiry compared to 1,200 access requests that departments handled under FIPPA. “It’s important to provide Manitobans with information that is relevant, timely and easy to find,” she said.
Other amendments to FIPPA include:
·         reducing to 20 years from 30 years the amount of time cabinet documents and advice provided to public sector bodies are protected,
·         providing the same protection for information received from First Nations’ authorities as for information received from other governments, 
·         providing a mechanism for public bodies to disregard requests considered an abuse of process and for the ombudsman to disregard complaints considered an abuse of the process,
·         enabling public-sector organizations to share personal information to deliver more integrated services across government, and
·         allowing universities to disclose alumni contact information for fundraising purposes.
The minister said these amendments will enshrine in law practices the provincial government has already adopted to ensure openness and transparency including:
·         requiring the disclosure of ministerial expenses on a regular basis, and
·         providing for the release of opinion polls paid for by a public organization.
FIPPA is companion legislation to the Personal Health Information Act (PHIA) which sets out access and privacy rights for personal-health information.  Under PHIA, the ombudsman has the same ability to request a review by the adjudicator who also has the same power to make binding orders to resolve access and privacy complaints.
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