Public Service Commission orders files destroyed, violating ATIPP Act

Recently, YEU submitted an Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (ATIPP) request and were advised the resulting document count was in the range of 600 pages. Surprisingly, the documents received numbered only 16 pages, with the balance redacted by the Public Service Commission.

Upon close review of the documents, an email thread originating at the highest levels of the PSC grabbed my attention.

The email instructs staff of the Respectful Workplace Office and the Public Service Commission PSC to destroy records related to an (ATIPP) request.

“PSCer request that the records you provided if either the personnel assessment or related to the personnel assessment are shredded/removed.”

This direction from the Public Service Commissioner to staff of the PSC and the RWO is in direct conflict with the Yukon ATIPP Act and is in violation of the newly ratified YEU/YG Collective Agreement.

The Act references the concealment or disposal of records here:

PART 7 Section 122
(6) A person commits an offense if the person alters, falsifies, conceals or disposes of information or a record, or directs another person to do so, with the intent
(a) to hinder, or impede the exercise of, the right of access to information under this Act or;
(b) to obstruct the provision of an accurate and complete response to an access request.

The longstanding practice of appointing Public Service Commissioners through a tripartite committee including the Unions was abandoned in recent years. Unsurprisingly, we have observed a steady decline in the quality of interactions between the union and the PSC as the frequently-replaced Commissioners have cycled through a revolving door.

The observation that our relationship with the PSC is on the rocks is not just our opinion. Included in a response to a recent ATIPP request was a statement from the January 11, 2022 meeting of the Executive Management Committee for PSC: “Unions – discussion took place on how to reset challenging and antagonistic relationships with both YTA (now the Yukon Association of Education Professionals) and YEU”. Of note, YEU and YG were in contract negotiations at the time of the January 11 Executive meeting.

The Commission also suggested one-on-one meetings to focus on ‘listening to find out what can be done to improve the relationship’. From where we stand, they don’t seem to be listening.

A contentious bargaining issue was the employer’s misuse of the Respectful Workplace Office. Through the bargaining process, we achieved a compromise for the future of the RWO and how it fits into the grievance process. The new, member-led process forms part of the new Collective Agreement and is contractually binding.

Setting aside the fact that we received only 16 pages of over 600 documents identified by the ATIPP office as relevant to our request, the redacted portions still provide a damning piece of communication that breaks our trust.

There is no provision under the old or new RWO process to destroy records related to an investigation. The email notes ‘personnel assessments’ which are defined in the ATIPP Act. The Act does not define the ability of YG to destroy records related to a personnel assessment to avoid disclosure.

Shredding documents and colluding to withhold relevant information is unseemly and an offense under the Access to Information and Privacy Act. Yukon Employees’ Union would like those responsible to be held accountable for those offenses. Without accountability there can be no confidence.

“The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act was proclaimed into force on July 1, 1996.

The purposes of the ATIPP Act are to make public bodies more accountable to the public and to protect personal privacy. The Act does this by giving the public a right of access to records, subject only to limited and specific exceptions; giving individuals a right of access to, and a right to request correction of, their own personal information; and preventing the unauthorized collection, use of disclosure of personal information by public bodies.

Independent reviews of decisions made by public bodies under the ATIPP Act are conducted by the Information and Privacy Commissioner.”

This issue is now under investigation by the Privacy Commissioner.


In solidarity,

Justin Lemphers, Vice President
Yukon Employees' Union

Originally published in the Yukon Employees' Union Newsletter, September 2023

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