Monday, October 24, 2011

Manitoba Ombudsman buries report that Manitoba Labour Board violated Privacy Laws.

December 22, 2010 report of MB Ombudsman Irene Hamilton stated the MB Labour Board violated its applicants’ privacy rights when it published written Reasons for Decision containing personal information, not authorized under FIPPA, on its website. Among other things, it was recommended that the Board remove from its website all decisions that contained personal information; change its practices (posting online decisions containing personal information began January 2007) and give an apology to the complainant. 

The FIPPA violation complaint, I submitted July 2009 to the Ombudsman's office, took 1.5 years (rather than the mandated 90 days) to respond. An informal resolution was worked out between Ombudsman Hamilton and Chair to the Board, W.D. Hamilton in or about March 2010 which was not revealed to the complainant. Once the government bodies came to an agreement, all communications with me, as complainant ceased. GABS

To date the Board has not complied with the recommendations made in the 2010 report contrary to that claimed in the Ombudsman's 2010 Annual Report accessible to the public; wherein the Board is described as amenable to most of the recommendations. The public report varies from the one given to the complainant.   A check and balance as to the reported changes that supposedly took place to the Board's website would reveal that no real change has occurred. To see just how far the Board takes Cyber Bullying when someone dares to go up against government, see Schwartzman vs MGEU and MHRC- Case Nos. 26/09/LRA and 27/09/LRA DECEMBER 20, 2010, and this is after the Board was put on notice! 

Note:  Since original posting on October 24, 2011, it has been discovered that the Manitoba Labour Board has been forced to clean up its act!! If you recently have viewed the online decision (link above) you will find that all names have been changed to initials to protect the innocent (and the guilty). The original document is 140 pages - this online version is 130. 

Government works in mysterious and not-so transparent ways.

The Ombudsman never submitted any News Release to educate the public of the Board's changes, or to forewarn people of very real concerns regarding privacy issues when one comes forward with a complaint. There is no mention of it on its webpage “Reports Recommendation and Response” nor in its September 26, 2011 release wherein it was asked to provide information as to investigations undertaken. The five public bodies the Ombudsman said it investigated, did not include the Labour Board. GABS

The Ombudsman’s online annual report had stricken from the original report, all unfavorable remarks regarding the Board, seemingly to make the bully seem not so bullish and presented instead a "no harm, no foul" Boards will be Boards tone.   In the December 2010 report, the statement, “…we do not feel that the Board has given due consideration to the harm caused the complainant are stricken. The frustrations in the Board's resistance to the recommendations are also not conveyed. The truth, albeit understated, is in the original report that "… we (Ombudsman) do not feel that the Board's actions are adequate in the circumstances of the present complaint.  GABS

The Ombudsman does not have any order making powers and states it herself as so. On the other hand, Hamilton, from the Board sees his powers as equal to that of a judge; and the Board his court. The Ombudsman needed to remind him that the Board is not a Court and that the Board must conduct itself in accordance with FIPPA laws. However, Hamilton is not in agreement with Ombudsman Hamilton's interpretation of the FIPPA Act, and seems to not accept her authority.

So we are at a "Mexican Standoff": the Ombudsman cannot compel a public body to accept or follow her recommendations and we have a man who sees himself as "Master of his own Domain." So what is the point of going through all the time and energy in bringing forward a complaint with the Ombudsman, who appears to be more of a gatekeeper for government stonewalling the process with the hopes that the complainant will just go away? The complainant has still yet to receive an intelligent and responsible resolution to a very serious issue.

Since the year 2000, every organization has had to adapt their business practices to comply with the Privacy Act. People need to feel confident about how their personal information is gathered, stored and used. Compared to the Federal PIPEDA policy, our provincial FIPPA pales in comparison when it comes to protecting Manitobans. 

Ombudsman's report included the fact that "the open court principle should result in the Board being subject to additional public scrutiny, not the individuals who come before it." (underline emphasis added)

As to why the Manitoba Ombudsman failed to send out a press release or public acknowledgement of the Labour Board's wrongdoings, the response was clearly a threat. Despite its past practices of never revealing personal information about a complainant in a press release, the following statement in writing is clearly a warning to stand down when she declaimed "...a public apology or a press release would seem to contradict the very basis of your complaint about privacy."  GABS

The Manitoba Ombudsman has yet to learn that "A pint of example is worth a barrelful of her recommendations."  

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