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BURNABYAmendments to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPP) Act are mere window dressing for the provincial governments privatization agenda and do nothing to alleviate British Columbians concerns about the all-powerful USA Patriot Act, says CUPE BC president Barry ONeill.

Bill 73, tabled in the legislature yesterday by Management Services Minister Joyce Murray, includes restrictions on public bodies and service providers storing, accessing or disclosing personal information outside Canada.

But amendments to Canadian law cannot protect the privacy of Canadians when U.S. companies are in possession of Canadians personal information, says ONeill.

Companies such as Maximus, to which the B.C. government recently contracted out administration and billing of the Medical Services Plan, can choose whether to comply with Canadian or U.S. lawand theres not much doubt which jurisdiction theyd choose.

ONeill added that the government had promised British Columbians it would wait until the privacy commissioner had finished his report into the effects of the USA Patriot Act before deciding whether or not to contract out the billing and administration of MSP to the Canadian division of an American company.

But now, by tabling these amendments and breaking that promise, the government is demonstrating that its far more concerned about protecting its privatization agenda than protecting British Columbians right to privacy.

In its August submission to Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukedelis, CUPE argued that U.S. authorities, under the jurisdiction of the Patriot Act, could gain access to personal information that a public body outsources to a U.S.-linked company.

CUPE believes legislation strengthening Canadian privacy protections will not be adequate to eliminate the risk to privacy in the proposed agreement with Maximus, it said. Maximus derives 95 per cent of its revenues in the United States and as such, when confronted with a conflict in its obligations, will likely side with the jurisdiction that provides the lions share of its revenues.

Nor can British Columbians trust the ministers statement yesterday that no sensitive personal information will be sent to the U.S. on either a temporary or permanent basis.

ONeill cited a September 1 article in Burnaby Now in which Murray effectively admitted that legislation could not prevent the sensitive, private information of British Columbians from falling into the hands of U.S. authorities, including the FBI.

Murray said the Canadian division of Maximus would be transferred to the ownership of the provincial government should those provisions be violated, the article said. When asked if that was not equivalent to closing the barn door after the horses have been let out, Murray said Yes, but thats what laws are all about.

ONeill said this proves that the amendments are politically motivated.

Theyre just window dressing, an attempt to justify the governments privatization agenda, he said. The best solution would have been never to have sold British Columbians sensitive private information in the first place.


Barry ONeill, CUPE BC President, 604-916-8444, or Daniel Gawthrop, CUPE Communications, 604-999-6132.