A ministerial order permitting the use of additional communication tools in the public sector during the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended to May 31, 2021.
Lisa Beare, Minister of Citizens’ Services, extended the order on Dec. 1, 2020, to ensure health-care workers, educators and other public-sector staff can continue to depend on software and technology that has proven vital to B.C.’s response to COVID-19.
The ministerial order under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA) was put into place March 26, 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in B.C.
British Columbia has the strictest privacy and data-residency laws in Canada and is one of two provinces requiring the personal information of its citizens to be stored in – and only accessed from – Canada.
These requirements would normally prohibit the use of some communication and collaboration software that has helped the Province keep people and communities safe during COVID-19, e.g.:
- Patient-care teams can use smartphone apps, text messaging, chat programs and other applications that make it easier to communicate with colleagues and patients during this time of physical distancing.
- People isolating at home after travelling or potentially being exposed to COVID-19 can use their preferred chat applications to communicate with public-health officials.
- Post-secondary institutions can provide online- and digital-learning and exam options as an alternative to in-person classes.
The protection of privacy is a top priority for the B.C. government and the Ministry of Citizens’ Services. The Province will continue to involve the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner as the order is reviewed ahead of the new May 31, 2021, deadline.
FOIPPA makes public bodies more accountable to the public and protects personal privacy by:
- giving the public a right of access to records;
- giving individuals a right of access to, and a right to request correction of, personal information about themselves;
- specifying limited exceptions to the rights of access;
- preventing the unauthorized collection, use or disclosure of personal information by public bodies; and
- providing an independent review of decisions made under this act.
This act does not replace other procedures for access to information or in any way limit access to information that is not personal information and is available to the public.
Ministerial order: https://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/mo/mo/m0431_2020
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in B.C.:
For non-medical information relating to COVID-19:
Call: 1 888 COVID-19 (1 888 268-4319) – Service is available 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Pacific time)