Earlier I wrote about an incident with Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) in Chatham with regard to the employment of a person who was found by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to have breached multiple people’s privacy while employed with HRSDC. This person was found to have gone into Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) files without cause or authorization. He was let go from his position and an assurance was given to the complainant that the measures taken would protect those involved in the long-term. Six months later, he is working at the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev) in Kitchener. When contacted, FedDev refused to give any form of assurance that this employee did not have the ability to access personal files, even once made aware of the previous investigation. People working for this department can access Service Canada records (such as CPP), Canada Revenue Agency records, etc by requesting this from those departments and supposedly with written consent from the file owners.
Since the lack of assurance was not an acceptable response the Lambton-Kent-Middlesex Member of Parliament (MP) was contacted in the hopes they could get assurance from the Federal Economic Development Agency. This was another dead end. When the MP’s office contacted FedDev, they were given the run-around. FedDev refused to discuss this situation and offered only assurance that citizens’ files are safe based on their procedures. HRSDC procedures are supposed keep citizens’ file safe as well.
How is it that when thousands of federal employees are being let go, they have a new hire who was found through a federal investigation to have breached privacy in a previous federal position? Are there no other people to fill the role? Or did HRSDC fail to put a note in this employee’s file stating that they did an investigation and it was found that he had breached privacy?
Surely, for the sake of Canadian citizens, HRSDC would put a note in the personnel file of someone who breached the Privacy Act. The Privacy Commissioner put it in writing, why wouldn’t HRSDC? According to the Privacy Act the Commissioner was to have sent a report of the findings to HRSDC, so there should be no question of whether or not the personnel file contains information on the breach.
During all of this, the employee had criminal charges pending including technology crime. My information about a background check, having come from local police saying charges show up, may be incorrect when it comes to the RCMP file used for professional background checks – which many only show convictions. According to the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s website the Canadian Police Information Centre does possess information on pending charges and whether or not this information is disclosed rests with the local police force providing the information to an organization. Most of the time, the police follow a standard and only inform potential employers of convictions, not pending charges. This employee has now plead guilty to one of the charges.
Information on pending charges not being given to an organization makes some sense as we are a nation where one is innocent until proven guilty. However, there is no law saying you cannot discriminate based on pending criminal charges. In fact, as a citizen, the idea that the government will employ someone charged leaves me a bit uncomfortable. There is no reason the government cannot request pending charges as part of their background check. In fact, it would make sense when the positions have access to extremely sensitive information.
It leaves one to question what they do when the person is convicted after being hired with pending charges. As citizens, we would expect the employee to be released from their employment but seeing as they are perfectly willing to employ someone who has been found to breach privacy (which is actually a crime) it does not seem beyond reason to think they may continue to employ someone who is convicted of violent and technological crimes.
Perhaps they only terminate employees who make the government or department look bad. If this is so, how many criminals does the Canadian Federal Government have working for them? (And no, I’m not referring to politicians and tax collectors.)
- Privacy commissioner ‘deeply disturbed’ by Election Ontario’s handling of voter data (theglobeandmail.com)
- Canadian Federal Government Privacy Fail (rantingrhetoric.wordpress.com)