Remarks at the 2019 Privacy and Data Governance Congress
October 23, 2019
Address by Sharon Polsky MAPP — President, Privacy and Access Council of Canada
Thank you for joining us here today, Senator Simons.
We appreciate you taking the time to be here and to share your insights. But today is hardly the first time you’ve said what’s on your mind.
In the decades that you spent as an investigative journalist, writing about politics, you shared your views and asked many tough questions.
You asked questions — that needed to be asked and answered — about Alberta’s child welfare system, and you were recognized for that important work with two National Newspaper Awards.
Your investigative work on Indigenous child welfare and government cover-ups of the deaths of children in foster care asked more tough questions that needed to be asked and answered. And that work earned recognition from the UNESCO Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom, and from Journalists for Human Rights.
You questioned the decision of police who refused to identify a hit-and-run suspect, citing vague “mental health concerns” as the reason.
You’ve criticized police for hiding behind — as you called it — a misguided, legally obtuse reading of Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, in order to keep essential information from the public.
You’ve championed transparency — and that the public has a valid interest in knowing if there’s a significant harm to public safety.
So, when a woman died at the hands of her partner, and police wouldn’t name the victim — or the person arrested for the killing — you disagreed: When someone who just killed their intimate partner is walking free among us, that is a public threat.
By asking and, more importantly, getting answers to tough questions, you helped raise awareness about the opacity of domestic violence — and I have no doubt that that had an impact on lawmakers: Last week, Alberta introduced legislation for a ‘Clare’s Law’ that will allow people to get access to partner’s criminal records.
You highlighted the reality that information is power — and that preventing access to information is an even greater power.
Your work in journalism helped to make our government and politics more accountable and transparent. And you continue that quest in your role as Senator.
You are an inspiration to new generations of data protection professionals and investigative journalists. And your work has had a long-lasting positive impact on the profession and on public policy.
So, for all that and more, on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Privacy and Access Council of Canada, I am pleased to present you with this year’s Fellowship Award.