#CyberFLASH: Public interest must be priority

images-122The RCMP in Saskatchewan should stop using the Privacy Act as an excuse to refuse to divulge information, especially when the public interest and safety factors are involved.

The police service’s communications policy involving the Saturday afternoon escape by two prisoners from the minimum security Willow Cree Healing Lodge at Duck Lake is a good example of its overly cautious application of the privacy law.

Even though the Correctional Service Canada issued a news release by 8 p.m. identifying Conrad Glen Slippery and Anthony Lawrence Earnest, along with providing a description of the two including the crimes for which they were imprisoned, the RCMP’s communication was far more limited.

Its request for public assistance in locating the escapees provided the names and a short description of the First Nations males, with a warning not to approach either man. Despite the words of caution, RCMP Sgt. Craig Cleary told media, “We weren’t in a position to breach the Privacy Act” because there was no immediate danger to the public. He said the warning to contact police without approaching them was merely because they were escaped convicts.

While the federal Privacy Act does state that personal information under the control of a government institution, including criminal records, shall not be disclosed without the consent of the individual to whom it relates, Section 8 (2) allows the head of an agency to share the information when “the public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs any invasion of privacy that could result from the disclosure.” In this case, the fact that 31-year-old Mr. Slippery was serving “an indeterminate or life sentence for second-degree murder,” as the correctional service appropriately disclosed, surely was in the public interest.

Read more here

About canux
© 2013 CyberTRAX Canada - All Rights Reserved.
Sponsored by C3SA Corp.