Nunavut’s information and privacy commissioner is an independent officer, and as such, he doesn’t have to mince words about the government.
That is evident enough as the first headline in his commissioner’s message of the 2022-23 information and privacy annual report states that “capacity issues are killing ATIPP” (Access to Information and Protection of Privacy).
“We’re truly independent,” said Steele about his position. “We can speak our mind, so yeah, we don’t have to use the usual bureaucratic soft pedaling. We can tell it like it is.”
And tell it like it is, he did.
“An annual report covers a lot of stuff,” said Steele. “But if I were to summarize it, I would say that I’m reporting to the legislative assembly that there’s some pretty serious problems with the access to information and privacy systems, and these problems have been around for a number of years now and they need attention, because it’s one of the few ways that citizens have to hold the government to count and know what their government is up to, so it’s important that the system work.”
Every public body in the GN has obligations under the ATIPP law, which includes releasing information within a certain time. The first deadline is 25 business days. In some circumstances, another 25 business days is allowed.
In the past year, at least four public bodies within the GN responded to ATIPP requests more slowly than the law requires, all saying they have capacity issues.
But for Steele, ‘capacity issues’ doesn’t cut it to explain why the GN is failing to follow the ATIPP law.
“We saw with yesterday’s devastating Auditor General report on child protection services that capacity is a much bigger issue than access to information, but it’s something that I feel is being used as an all-purpose excuse for not following the law,” said Steele.
He had two solutions: get more resources so the ATIPP law could be followed, or relax the law – the latter of which being a poor outcome, he admitted, but at least it would be more honest.
Right now, Nunavut is in the “worst of worlds” when it comes to dealing with ATIPP requests, he said, because the law makes a promise that the GN often can’t keep, which erodes trust in government.
Part of the issue is that ATIPP positions are usually not highly paid and rarely come with housing, so staffing them is very difficult for the territory.
He did want to emphasize that some departments are better than others, with Health being by far the best.
“That’s why I know what I’m asking for is not unreasonable, because Health is doing it,” said Steele. “Now the other departments need to catch up.”
And perhaps unsurprisingly, Health’s ATIPP coordinator is paid more than most of the other ones. Steele said the person in that position is doing a great job.
One challenge for Steele is that his position comes with no enforcement power, unlike many similar positions in other provinces.
“I can only say to a slow department, ‘Please hurry up. The law says you need to hurry up.’ And they can look at it and they can just shrug their shoulders and say, ‘Yeah, well, we’re going as fast as we can with the resources that we have.’”
That means, frankly, that the GN doesn’t have to follow the law if it doesn’t want to, said Steele, as there are no consequences for ignoring his recommendations.
At least, he said, it doesn’t appear to be a wilful resistance to releasing certain information.
“Based on what I’ve seen and heard, I would say that in Nunavut is not generally a problem with resistance,” said Steele. “I do not detect any feeling within the government that they want to hide things.”
The issue is more priorities and resources, making the end result the same.
In this year’s territorial budget, there is funding for a central ATIPP unit, which would mark progress, said Steele.
“I do believe that that will make things better that will let the people of Nunavut know more about what’s going on inside their government,” he said.
But until those positions are filled, he isn’t getting too optimistic, as “the GN has shown that they can have budgets and positions but can’t fill them.”
ᓄᓇᕗᑦ ᑐᓴᖅᑕᐅᔭᕆᐊᖃᖕᖏᑦᑐᓄᑦ ᓴᐳᔨᔨᒃᑯᑦ ᑲᒥᓯᓇ ᓇᖕᒥᓂᖅᓱᖅᖢᓂ ᐋᕿᐅᒪᑎᑦᑎᔨ, ᐅᖃᐳᖅ ᐅᖃᖅᑕᖓ
ᑐᑭᓯᓇᑲᐅᑎᒋᖕᒪᑦ ᓄᓇᕗᑦ ᒐᕙᒪᖓ ᐱᔾᔪᑎᒋᓪᓗᒍ.
ᑐᑭᓯᓇᑲᐅᑎᒋᔪᖅ ᑎᑎᖃᖅ ᑐᓴᖅᑕᐅᔭᕆᐊᖃᖏᑦᑐᒃᑯᑦ ᓴᐳᔨᔨᒃᑯᑦ ᑕᑯᓪᓗᒍ 2022-2023 ᐅᓂᑲᐅᓯᖅ ᐱᕕᑭᒃᓴᕐᓂᖓ ᑐᓴᖅᑕᐅᔭᕆᐊᖃᖏᑦᑐᓄᑦ ᓴᐳᑎᔪᑎ ᓱᕈᖅᓴᐃᓕᕐᒪᑦ Atipp-ᒥᑦ (ᐱᔪᓐᓇᕐᓂᕐᒥᒃ ᑐᓴᖅᑕᐅᔭᕆᐊᖃᖏᑦᑐᓄᑦ ᑭᒃᑯᓕᕐᓄᑦ ᓴᐳᑦᑎᔅᔪᑎ)
‘ᓇᖕᒥᓂᖅᓱᕋᒪ, ᐅᖃᖅᐳᖅ ᓯᑎᐅ ᐱᓕᕆᐊᒃᓴᕐᒥᓂᒃ. ᐃᓱᒪᒋᔭᑦᑎᓐᓂ ᐅᖃᕈᓐᓇᕋᑦᑕ ᐊᓴᒃᖠᙱᓪᓗᑕ ᐱᓕᕆᖃᑎᒋᔭᑦᑎᓐᓂ. ᑕᑯᔭᕗᑦ ᓱᓕᔪᒥᒃ ᐅᖃᖅᑕᖅᐸᕗᑦ.’
‘ᑕᑯᔭᕗᑦ ᓱᓕᔪᒃᑯᑦ ᐅᖃᖅᐸᒃᐸᕗᑦ’ ᐅᖃᖅᐳᖅ.
‘ᐊᕌᒍᑕᖅᓯᐅᑦ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᑦ ᑭᓱᑐᐃᓐᓇᕐᓂ ᐃᓗᓕᖃᖅᐳᖅ,’ ᓯᑎᐅ ᐅᖃᖅᐳᖅ, ᐅᖃᕋᔭᕈᒃᑯ ᐋᕿᒃᓯᒪᔪᒃᑯᑦ, ᐅᖃᕋᔭᖅᐳᖓ ᒪᓕᒐᓕᐅᕐᕕᖕᒧᑦ ᐊᑲᐅᖏᑦᑐᖅᑕᖃᒪᕆᖕᒪᑦ ᐊᑐᕈᓐᓇᕐᓂᖅ ᑐᓴᖅᑕᐅᔭᕆᐊᖃᖏᑐᓂᒃ ᓴᐳᑦᑎᔅᔪᑎᒧᑦ, ᐊᒪᓗ ᑕᒪᓐᓇ ᐊᑲᐅᖏᑦᑐᖅ ᑲᒪᒋᔭᐅᓚᐅᖅᓯᒪᖏᖦᖢᓂ ᐊᕋᒍᒐᓴᖕᓄᑦ.
‘ᖃᐅᔨᓴᖅᑕᐅᔭᕆᐊᖃᒪᕆᒃᐳᖅ, ᓲᖃᐃᒪ ᐊᑐᒐᒃᓴᑐᐸᓘᖕᒪᑦ ᓄᓇᕗᒻᒥᐅᓄᑦ, ᖃᐅᔨᒪᖁᓪᓗᒋᑦ ᓄᓇᕗᒻᒥᑦ ᑎᑎᖃᖏᑦ ᑲᒪᒋᔭᐅᑎᐊᕋᓗᐊᕐᒪᖓᑕ ᐊᑲᐅᔪᒃᑯᑦ, ᓇᓗᓇᐃᑯᑕᐅᓪᓗᖤᓗ ᑎᑎᖃᑦᕗᑦ ᐊᓯᐅᔭᕆᐊᖃᖏᑦᑐᓄᑦ. ᐱᔪᑎᒋᓪᓗᒍ ᑕᒪᓐᓇ ᑲᒪᒋᔭᐅᔭᕆᐊᖃᒪᕆᒃᑐᑦ ᐃᖏᕋᑎᐊᖁᓪᓗᒍ.’
ᐃᓄᖕᓂᑦ ᐱᔨᑦᑎᕋᓲᑦ ᓄᓇᕗ ᒐᕙᒪᖓᓂ ᐱᔪᓐᓇᕐᓂᖃᕆᐊᖃᕐᒪᑕ ᐊᑐᕈᓐᓇᕐᓂᖅAtipp ᒪᓕᒐᖓᓂᒃ. ᐱᔪᓐᓇᕐᓂᖃᖅᖢᑎ ᐊᑐᕈᓐᓇᕐᓂᖅ ᑐᓴᖅᑕᐅᔭᕆᐊᖃᖏᑐᓂᒃ ᓴᐳᑎᔪᑎᒥᒃ ᒪᓕᒐᕐᒥᒃ. ᐱᔪᓐᓇᕐᓂᖃᖅᖢᑎᒃ ᑐᓐᓂᕆᓂᕐᒥᒃ
ᑐᒃᓯᕌᕆᔭᐅᔪᓂᒃ ᑎᑎᖃᓂᒃ, ᑭᒡᓕᓕᑯᑦ. ᓯᕗᓪᓕᖅ ᑐᒃᓯᕌᖅ ᑭᒡᓕᖓ 25 ᐅᓪᓗᑦ, ᑐᖔᓄᓪᓗ ᐱᔪᓐᓇᖅᐳᑦ.
ᐊᕋᒍᓵᖅᑐᒥᒃ, ᑎᓴᒪᑦ ᓄᓇᕗᑦ ᒐᕙᒪᖓᓄᑦ ᑎᒥᐅᔪᑦ ᑭᐅᖃᑦᑕᖅᐳᑉ Atipp-ᒧ ᓱᒃᑲᐃᓵᕐᓂᖅᓴᐅᓪᓗᑎᒃ ᑐᒃᓯᕌᓕᐊᖏᓐᓂᒃ,
ᒪᓕᖏᖦᖢᑎ ᒪᓕᒃᑕᐅᔭᕆᐊᓕᖕᓂ, ᓱᖃᐃᒻᒪ ᐱᕕᑭᒃᓇᕐᒪᑦ.
ᑭᓯᐊᓂᓕ ᓯᑎᐅ-ᒧᑦ ‘ᐱᕕᑭᒃᓴᕐᓂᖅ’ ᓄᖃᕈᑎᒋᔮᖏᓛ ᐅᖃᕋᓱᖕᓂᕐᒥᒃ ᖃᓄᐃᒪᑦ ᓄᓇᕗᑦ ᒐᕙᒪᖓ ᓱᕋᒃᓯᓕᕐᒪᑕ ᒪᓕᒐᐅᔪᒥᒃ
‘ᐃᒃᐸᒃᓴᖅ ᑕᑯᓚᐅᖅᐳᒍᑦ ᐊᑲᐅᖏᑦᑐᒻᒪᕆᖕᒥᑦ ᓇᐃᓴᐃᔨᕐᔪᐊᒻᒪᕆᐅᑉ ᑎᑎᖃᖏᓐᓂ, ᓱᕈᓯᕐᓂᒃ ᓇᐳᔾᔨᔨᓄᑦ ᐊᑐᐊᒐᖅ ᐊᑲᐅᖏᓕᐅᕈᑎᖓ ᐱᕕᑭᓐᓂᐅᔪᖅ ᐊᖏᓂᖅᓴᐅᕗᖅ, ᑐᓴᖅᑕᐅᔭᕆᐊᖃᖏᑐᓂᒃ ᓴᐳᑦᑎᔪᑎᒥᒃ, ᑭᓯᐊᓂ ᐃᓱᒪᒋᔭᕋ ᑕᐃᒪᐃᑦᑐᖅ ᑲᒪᔪᒪᖏᓐᓂᑯᒧᑦ, ᒪᓕᒍᓐᓃᖅᖢᑎᒃ ᒪᓕᒐᕐᒥᒃ. ᓯᑎᐅ ᐅᖃᖅᐳᖅ.
ᒪᕈᓂ ᓴᕿᑎᑎᕗᖅ ᐊᑐᕈᓐᓵᖅᑐᓂᒃ: ᐊᕿᒋᐊᕐᓗᒍ Atipp ᒪᓕᒍᓐᓇᖅᓯᖁᓪᓗᒍ ᒪᓕᒐᒡᒥᒃ, ᐅᕙᓗᓂ ᓯᕗᓂᑦᑎᓂ ᐊᑲᐅᖏᑦᑐᒥᒃ ᐋᕿᒃᓯᒪᖁᔨᒍᔅᓯ ᓄᓇᕗᑦ ᒐᕙᒪᖓᓂᑦ, ᐅᖃᖅᐳᖅ, ᐊᒃᓱᓪᓖ ᓱᓕᔪᖅ ᐊᑲᐅᓂᖅᓴᐅᓪᓗᓂ ᑐᓴᖅᑕᐅᑎᓪᓗᒍ.
ᒪᓇᐅᔪᖅ, ᓄᓇᕗᑦ ‘ᐱᑯᓇᖏᑦᑐᒃᑰᖅᐳᖅ’ Atipp-ᑯᑦ ᑐᒃᓯᕋᖅᑐᖃᓕᕋᖓᑦ, ᐅᖃᖅᐳᖅ ᒪᓕᒐ ᒪᓕᑦᑎᐊᕆᐊᖃᕋᓗᐊᕐᒪᑦ ᑭᓯᐊᓂᓕ ᓄᓇᕗᑦ ᒐᕙᒪᖓ ᒪᓕᒍᒪᙱᒻᒪᑦ ᒪᓕᒐᕐᒥᓂᒃ, ᐅᒃᐱᕐᓇᕈᓐᓃᕈᑎᓕᐅᓱᖑᕗᑦ ᒐᕙᒪᒃᑯᓐᓄ.
ᐊᑲᐅᖏᓕᐅᕈᑎ ᐃᓚᖓᑦ Atipp-ᒧᑦ ᐊᑭᑭᓗᐊᖅᑐᒥᒃ ᐊᑭᓕᖅᓱᐃᓂᖅ ᐃᖃᓇᐃᔭᖅᑎᖏᓐᓂ, ᐃᒡᓗᑭᒃᓴᕐᓂᕐᓗ ᕿᑭᒃᑖᓗᖕᒥᑦ.
ᐅᖃᕈᒪᔪᖅ ᑭᓯᐊᓂ ᐃᓚᖏᑦ ᑎᒥᐅᔪᑦ ᓈᒻᒪᒃᑐᒦᓐᓂᖅᓴᐅᔪᑦ, ᐋᓂᐊᖃᖏᑐᓕᕆᔨᒃᑯᑦᐊᑲᐅᔪᒦᓛᖑᕗᑦ ᒪᓇᐅᔪᖅ.
‘ᑕᐃᒪᓐᓇ ᐊᐱᕆᕗᖓ ᐱᓕᕆᐊᕆᖁᓪᓗᒍ, ᐊᔪᕐᓇᓪᓗᐊᖏᒻᒪᑦ ᐋᓂᐊᖃᖏᑦᑐᓕᕆᔨᑯᑦ ᒪᓕᒃᑎᐊᕋᒥᒡᓕ.’ ᐅᖃᖅᐳᖅ ᓯᑎᐅ. ‘ᑕᐃᒪ ᐃᓚᖏᑦ ᑎᒥᐅᔪᑦ ᐋᕿᒋᐊᖃᑕᐅᒃᐸᑕ.’
ᐱᔪᓐᓇᒪᕆᒃᑑᒐᓗᐊᑦ, ᐋᓂᐊᖃᓇᖏᑦᑐᓕᕆᔨᒃᑯᑦ Atipp ᑕᑯᒃᓴᐅᑎᑦᑎᓕᕆᔨᖓ ᐱᓕᕆᑦᑎᐊᖅᑐᒻᒪᕆᐊᓗᖕᒪᑦ. ᓯᑎᐅ ᐅᖃᖅᐳᖅ.
ᐅᖃᖅᑕᓂ ᓯᑎᐅ ᐃᖃᓇᐃᔭᕐᓂᖅ, ᐃᓱᒪᑕᐅᓴᖕᓂᕐᒧᑦ ᐱᔭᕆᐊᑭᒻᒪᑦ, ᐊᓯᖏᓪᓕ ᐃᖃᓇᐃᔭᖅᑏᑦ ᐊᑲᐅᔪᒦᔾᔪᒥᖕᒪᑕ. ‘ᐅᖃᕈᓐᓇᑐᐃᓐᓇᖅᐳᖓ ᓱᒃᑲᐃᓵᖅᑐᓄᑦ, ᑐᐊᕕᓕᕆᑦᑎ.’ ᒪᓕᒐᖅ ᐅᖃᖅᓯᒪᔪᖅ ᑐᐊᕕᕐᓇᕐᓂᒐᓂᒃ.’ ᐱᓕᕆᓯᒋᐊᖅᐸᒡᔪᒡᓗ
ᐱᔪᓐᓇᕐᒪᑕ, ‘ᐃᓛᒃ ᑐᐊᕕᖅᑎᑎᓇᓱᒃᑐᒍᑦ ᐊᑐᕈᓐᓇᖅᑕᔅᓯᓐᓂ ᐊᑐᕐᓗᓯ.’
ᑕᐃᒪᓐᓇ ᐱᓗᒍ, ᓄᓇᕗᑦ ᒐᕙᒪᖓ, ᒪᓕᖏᒃᑲᓗᐊᐸᑦ ᖃᓄᐃᙱᒻᒥᔪᖅ ᒪᓕᒍᒪᖏᑉᐸᑕ.
ᐃᓱᒪᓗᖕᓇᖅᑐᖅᑕᖃᖁᖏᓐᓇᕋᓗᐊᕐᒪᑦ. ᓯᑎᐅ ᐱᓕᕆᐊᖏᓐᓂᒃ. ᐊᒃᓱ ᐅᖃᕋᓗᐊᖅᖢᓂ, ᑐᓴᖅᑕᐅᓗᐊᕋᓗᖂᕐᓇᖏᑦᑐᖅ.
ᑕᑯᔭᑯᑦ, ᑐᓴᖅᑕᒃᑯᓪᓗ, ᓄᓇᕗᒻᒥᑦ ᐃᓱᒪᓗᑎᓂᒃ ᐃᓱᒪᓕᖏᑦᑐᑦ’ ᐅᖃᖅᐳ ᓯᑎᐅ. ᐃᒃᐱᒍᓱᖃᖏᑦᑎᐊᖅᑐᖓ ᐃᔨᖅᓯᓯᒪᓂᖏᓐᓂ ᐱᓕᕆᐊᕐᒥᖕᓂᒃ ᒐᕙᒪᒃᑯᑦ.
‘ᑕᒪᓐᓇ ᐱᔪᒪᓂᖅᓴᐅᓂᕐᒧᑦ ᐊᑲᐅᖏᓕᐅᕈᑎᐅᔪᖅ, ᓴᖅᖀᓐᓇᕐᓂᐊᖅᑐᖅ ᓇᐅᑯᑐᐃᓐᓇᖅ.
ᐊᕌᒍᔪᒥ ᕿᑭᖅᑖᓗᖕᒧᑦ, ᑮᓇᐅᔭᒃᓴᑦ ᑐᕋᖓᓂᖃᕐᓂᐊᖅᐳᖅ Atipp ᐱᔪᓐᓇᐅᑎ, ᐱᐅᓯᕚᓪᓕᕈᓐᓇᕋᔭᖅᐳᖅ. ᓯᑕᐅ
ᐅᒃᐱᕈᓱᒃᐳᖓ ᐊᔪᕐᓇᖏᓐᓂᖅᓴᐅᓇᔭᕐᓂᖓᓄᑦ ᓄᓇᕗᑦ ᐃᓄᕈᑎᖏᓐᓄᑦ, ᖃᐅᔨᕙᓪᓕᐊᓗᑎᒡᓗ
ᖃᓄᐃᑉᐸᓪᓕᐊᓂᕆᔭᕐᒥᖕᓂᑦ ᒐᕙᒪᒃᑯᑦ ᐃᓗᐊᓂ. ᐅᖃᖅᐳᖅ.
ᑭᓯᐊᓂᓕ ᐃᖃᓇᐃᔭᖅᑎᖃᑎᐊᖏᓐᓂᖅ ᐅᒃᐱᕆᓗᐊᕋᓗᖏᑕᒃᑲ.’ ᓄᓇᕗᑦ ᒐᕙᒪᒻ ᐃᖃᓇᐃᔭᖅᑎᑖᕋᓱᓚᐅᖅᓯᒪᖏᒻᒪᑕ,