………..still dancing!

“And the music goes on and on……” from February 28 of this year examples but one exercise in why our governments’ expenses appear so out of control. Why do our civil servants spend so much time and money to achieve so little? Why hasn’t our collective wisdom found a solution to expediently meet our needs from the bodies we set up to govern? A debate for the ages, that.

We’ve been patiently waiting for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to make a determination on our requests for information Correctional Service of Canada has withheld pertaining to July 22, 2014. Stephen Fineberg in Montreal, who is acting on Brennan Guigue’s behalf, has seen incremental steps toward that end, but his long experience in this area has nonetheless left him frustrated by the delays.

Here is the bulk of a July 11 update email:

…………. I was hoping it would be possible to supply you with news of a concrete development that I am waiting on. I can see now it is unrealistic to wait further, so I am writing with my news, such as it is.

As you already know, being dissatisfied with the results of our access and privacy requests to CSC’s access and privacy coordinator, I wrote on September 3, 2015 to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to initiate a complaint with the object of obtaining at least some of the material then withheld. On September 11, the OPC wrote to acknowledge receipt of our correspondence.

The OPC subsequently responded that, despite the existing correspondence confirming CSC recognizes me as Brennan’s representative, a new authorization signed by Brennan would be needed before I would enjoy that status with the OPC. Such authorization was provided by Brennan to the OPC, and on November 13, 2015 I wrote again to the OPC to initiate our complaint. I highlighted the fact that it made little sense for CSC to claim there were no entries in the medical file since Brennan’s previous privacy request (which predates the incident of July 22, 2014), and that we have been given CSC reports admitting rules were not followed, but have been prevented from reading the descriptions of those violations.

Eventually Brennan was able to view the shared video material and informed us that the hand-held camera footage is cut off early, so that material of great interest has not been made available In February I wrote to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to communicate Brennan’s position on the hand-held camera sharing.

On March 11, 2016 the OPC called. I imagine it was at this point that an investigator had made sufficient sense of the file to discuss it for the first time. The OPC asked me if Brennan was still insisting on what they term “a standard investigation,” meaning that the OPC would demand the entire record from CSC and examine it to determine if the existing sharing was in compliance with the law. I answered in the affirmative. The call proved a useful opportunity to help them understand what we needed, especially in terms of visual material.

On April 5, 2016, I called the OPC and spoke with Chantal Latour, Senior Privacy Investigator. Despite her evident wish to assist, it was impossible to get an idea of when there might be results in our file.

On May 2, 2016, I received an undated letter from Mme. Latour confirming the nature of Brennan’s allegations to her office. It reads in part, “Based on the information you provided, a complaint file has been opened and it has been assigned to me. I have notified CSC of the details of your complaint and asked for a copy of the information held in the processing files that is relevant to your complaint. (….) I will make every effort to complete the investigation as soon as possible. Should you have any additional information or wish an update on my investigation, please do not hesitate…”

This is where things stand. I was hoping there would be something concrete to report from the OPC investigation, but I don’t know if that will take another month or another year. At some point Brennan will need to file in court if he wishes to hold CSC responsible in a civil suit, and that point must be before the third anniversary of the July 22, 2014 incident. You will remember that my mandate was to obtain material evidencing the illegal conduct of CSC so that Brennan (and you) could decide if it is worth pursing before the courts. What we have obtained to date is undoubtedly of some help, but Brennan claims the most damning visual evidence is that which has been withheld, and as of today we cannot know if the OPC will succeed in locating and sharing more, and, if so, when.

The civil litigation rules regarding discovery may succeed in turning up more than the access and privacy route has produced to date. Your dilemma, as I see it, is that you were hoping to have the material illustrating Brennan’s allegations before deciding if you should underwrite civil litigation. It may prove necessary eventually to decide on the basis of what you have. Still, you are not at the deadline for that decision yet…………

Our thanks for this status update were emailed to Stephen Fineberg along with two questions, one pertaining to the availability of the civil litigator he had recommended back in 2014, and the other on a point of clarification arising from the last part of his report. Was it correct to assume that CSC may not provide as much information to the OPC as they may be required to make available under a court order?

Imagine how many of your tax dollars have been spent to this point, and we have yet to go face to face with Correctional Service of Canada.

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