Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (ETHI)

The ETHI committee met twice this week to resume its Statutory Review of the Conflict of Interest Act. The first meeting involved hearing testimony from two experts on ethics and the law, including the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, and the latter, which was in-camera pertained to the Committee’s study of privacy and social media, addressing the introduction of a Member’s motion.

During Monday’s meeting, members heard testimony from two witnesses, Adam Dodek, law professor at the University of Ottawa, who was followed by Mary Dawson, current Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. Mr. Dodek’s testimony focused on incorporating certain key aspects of the Guide for Ministers and Ministers of State into the Conflict of Interest Act. He also recommended that the Commissioner’s powers of condemnation be expanded to allow her to make public breaches of the Act, including those under its reporting provisions. Ms. Dawson spoke to the Committee for the second time in recent weeks and was able to clarify several points of confusion, including issues surrounding fundraising, gift giving and post-employment obligations. Both witnesses spoke to the importance of creating an ‘ethical infrastructure’ through education and outreach.

The meeting on March 20th was held in camera. According to the minutes, the committee resumed its study of privacy and social media. Among other things, it was agreed that the committee adopt a draft report to be entitled, “Privacy and Social Media in the Age of Big Data” and that the committee undertake a study in relation the Information Commissioner of Canada’s 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 Annual Reports. The committee also agreed to invite the Office of the Information Commissioner, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying to appear before the Committee, no later than May 31, 2013, to discuss the Main Estimates 2013-14.