Personal data of Quebecers | The guard called for “arms” and his freedom

(Quebec) The custodian of Quebecers ’personal data wants to get its independence from the government, which lacks its funding. The Information Access Commission needs to double its staff to do its job as the state considers collecting biometric data on citizens.

Posted at 5:00 p.m.

Charles Lecavalier

Charles Lecavalier
The Press

“I wouldn’t say [qu’on est] no teeth, but we like to bite if necessary. We were given teeth in legislative terms, however […] to apply the law in a strict way, weapons are needed, ”said the organization’s president, Diane Poitras, in an exclusive interview given by The Press.

Last year, the Commission d’accès à l’information (CAI) received new missions with the adoption of five legislative measures requiring it to be given more oversight. CAI has 77 employees. To do his new job, he will need 79 more people. But he remained hungry. Minister Éric Caire, responsible for the file, explained to a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that it was not possible to increase the organization’s budget by nearly 12 million due to budget restrictions linked to the pandemic.


Éric Caire, Minister of Cybersecurity and Digital and Minister responsible for Access to Information and Protection of Personal Information

But for M.and Poitras, this situation is abnormal, because the one who will determine his budget, Mr. Cairo, was also his guard. He, in particular, wants to establish a digital identity. It is in this context that he affirmed, during the study of the Secretariat’s appropriations for access to information, that “more than ever before, the situation shows that the CAI budget should be protected from decisions. [du gouvernement] while he is also responsible for monitoring her “.

“You can’t think that the budget of the Auditor General or the Public Protector is determined by the government. Parliamentarians decide their budget, ”he said in an interview. He believes his body should have the same “freedom” and “capacity to fulfill its mandate” as the AG. Mand Poitras pointed out that almost all of his counterparts in other provinces and at the federal level are independent of the government.

Important missions

He thinks, for example, about the use of biometric data by the Legault government, but doesn’t have all the resources to monitor this digital transfer.

It is not small, the use of biometric information in the state. It takes bodily characteristics to convert it into data. That in itself is irritating.

Diane Poitras, President of its Information Access Commission

If there is a misuse, or a leak of data, it calls into question the “citizen’s ability to identify themselves”. “You can’t replace your face, your finger, your hand,” M saidand Breasts. He is concerned, for example, about the “increase in biometric data banks”.

With such a small budget, it is also expected that the processing time of CAI files will be the same length. “The new responsibilities entrusted to us, they will suffer the same fate. We can’t process it as quickly as possible, ”he feared.

And the watchdog cannot do “proactive monitoring”. “There are many projects announced or initiated: digital transformation, digital identity, health reform, to name three. Ensuring that all of this is done in a compliant manner is our role as a monitoring. body, ”he said.

Support from the Liberals

Liberal MP Gaétan Barrette came to the defense of Mand Breasts. He is convinced “that he will not be able to fulfill his new budget duties given to him”.


Gaétan Barrette, Member of the Liberal Party of Quebec

Law 64 on personal information only obliges the CAI to perform about twenty new tasks.

He should:

  • Conduct investigations into compliance with legal obligations of businesses, public bodies and provincial political parties, especially regarding new obligations (estimated increase of more than one hundred investigations per year over three years) ;
  • Performing inspections of new legal obligations (about twenty years);
  • Process reports of incidents with confidentiality and ensure follow-up (a significant improvement is expected in September 2022-the experience of other provinces and the federal government suggests a 400% increase).

“He is the custodian of information, and the minister, you know, will cut him off,” MP Gaétan Barrette criticized. In his opinion, the Legault government “endangers the security of Quebecers’ personal information ”with this budget choice.

In a parliamentary committee, Mr. Barrette pointed out to Éric Caire that the 12.5 million claimed by Mr.and Poitras is only three in the bucket compared to the budget of the Ministry of Cybersecurity.

Mr. Caire replied that we should “explain that to the taxpayers who are making their tax report so far that 12.4 million are peanuts”. He believes CAI will be able to do its job with the budget it allocates, an increase of 1.5 million in 2022-2023.

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