EXTRACTS FROM HANSARD -- PROCEEDINGS OF CANADA'S SENATE :
The following extract has been taken from Hansard Records of Canada's Senate:
Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
2nd Session, 36th Parliament,
Volume 138, Issue 78
Wednesday, October 5, 2000
The Honourable Gildas L. Molgat, Speaker
Motion to Approve Appointment of George Radwanski-Debate Adjourned
Hon. Dan Hays (Deputy Leader of the Government), pursuant to notice of October 4, 2000, moved:
That, in accordance with Section 53 of the Privacy Act, Chapter P-21 of the Revised Statutes of Canada 1985, the Senate approve the appointment of George Radwanski as Privacy Commissioner.
He said: Honourable senators, I should like to begin debate on this motion. The term of the previous Privacy Commissioner, Mr. Bruce Phillips, expired on August 30 of this year. In order to ensure the position was not vacant for any significant period of time, and pursuant to subsection 53(4) of the Privacy Act, which states that the Governor in Council may appoint another qualified person to hold office until a new Privacy Commissioner is appointed, the government considered that Mr. George Radwanski should be appointed as interim commissioner.
I am pleased to seek the support of honourable senators today to approve a motion for the appointment of Mr. George Radwanski as Canada's next Privacy Commissioner.
As background, honourable senators may be aware that the other place has considered Mr. Radwanski's appointment in committee and has agreed to the motion that we have before us today.
I am sure all honourable senators will agree that privacy is one of our most cherished rights. The Senate has been a strong supporter of privacy legislation, has been active in ensuring the appointment of qualified persons for the position of Privacy Commissioner, and has taken a keen interest in an ongoing dialogue with the previous commissioner on privacy matters.
The Privacy Act came into effect on July 1, 1983, with the objective of protecting the privacy of individuals. This legislation enables Canadians to have access to the personal information the government holds concerning them, barring certain restrictions set out in the legislation.
By the same token, the act also protects personal information on Canadians and sets out how government can collect, use and dispose of personal information. The Privacy Commissioner plays a key role in implementing the provisions of the act.
Because of the need for independence from the government, the Privacy Commissioner is an independent officer of Parliament and is appointed by and accountable to Parliament. The Privacy Commissioner acts as an ombudsperson on behalf of Canadians who may have complaints or wish to obtain information about the government's handling of their personal information. The Privacy Commissioner ensures that Canadians are provided with information about them held by the government and that such information is protected in accordance with the act. In this regard, the Privacy Commissioner's key functions are the following: to look into the complaints of Canadians, to monitor compliance under the Privacy Act, and to undertake research.
Mr. George Radwanski will be well known to many honourable senators for his work as a former journalist. His more than 20 years of experience in this area makes him well suited for this position. His career in journalism spans a wide range of responsibilities and positions with a number of major newspapers, including associate editor with the Montreal Gazette, Ottawa editor and national affairs columnist with the Financial Times of Canada, and editor-in-chief of The Toronto Star.
Mr. Radwanski's excellence as an editorial writer was also recognized by his peers in 1980 and 1981 when he was awarded the National Newspaper Award for editorial writing.
Following his departure from the journalism field, Mr. Radwanski began his public service when he was appointed by then Ontario premier David Peterson to head major studies into matters of importance to the Canadian public, including a study into the service sector in Ontario.
In 1996, at the request of the Canadian government, Mr. Radwanski headed an examination into the mandate of Canada Post Corporation. Recently, as the head of a consulting firm, he has specialized in communication policies and services. He is very familiar with the challenges relating to public policy and privacy.
I am sure all honourable senators will agree that his independence as a journalist makes him particularly well suited for the role of Privacy Commissioner. Therefore, I would urge all honourable senators to support the motion to appoint Mr. Radwanski as Privacy Commissioner.
As I indicated earlier today in response to questions about house business, I believe that the Senate made a practice of hearing from the Privacy Commissioner when the predecessor commissioner, Mr. Bruce Phillips - and hopefully Mr. Radwanski's appointment will be confirmed by us - was brought before this chamber in Committee of the Whole for purposes of our putting questions to him. I believe that was a good practice, one that we will want to follow again. Senator Prud'homme, in particular, was interested in knowing how much time we would have for debate and how much time we would have for a meeting with Mr. Radwanski. Of course, it will be up to this chamber as to how we proceed. That is my suggestion and that is what I will be seeking as a procedure.
If we follow that procedure, I believe we will do a good job of examining his qualifications and his reputation. Many of us in this chamber already know him by reputation. However, this matter is in the hands of all senators. I urge honourable senators to support his appointment.
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Might I ask a question?
Senator Hays: Senator Prud'homme has a question, honourable senators, which I would be happy to try to answer.
Senator Prud'homme: I think someone may ask for an adjournment of the debate, so my question will be very short. I look forward to Mr. Radwanski's appearance before this chamber where we will have an opportunity to pose questions to him. Following his withdrawal from the Senate chamber there will be a debate. Am I correct in my understanding of how we shall proceed?
Senator Hays: Yes. A report to the Senate by the Committee of the Whole, or any committee, as I understand it, is a debatable item on our agenda. Yes, there will be an opportunity to debate the report of the committee.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, I would ask your indulgence for one moment. Because of parliamentary business elsewhere, I will probably not be here when Mr. Radwanski's case comes before us again.
I would just like to say that I have known George Radwanski for 35 years. In fact, I knew him better 35 years ago than I do now. I worked on two papers with him when we were all bright young journalists working together. He is a man of extraordinary intelligence, extraordinary attention to detail, and with the ability to grasp complicated concepts and apply them practically. I believe he would be an excellent Privacy Commissioner.
Senator Prud'homme: Since Senator Fraser has decided to speak, might I ask her a question?
The Hon. the Speaker: If the honourable senator is willing to receive questions, yes.
Senator Prud'homme: The honourable senator has asked for "one" moment, so I will ask only one question.
The honourable senator said that she has known Mr. Radwanski for 35 years. Does she know all his views on major issues?
Senator Fraser: As I said, honourable senators, I knew him better 35 years ago than I do today. In fact, I have not spoken with him for some time. I was speaking essentially to his fundamental abilities, which I have no reason to believe have changed.
As to his views on major issues, first, no one knows everyone's views on major issues and, second, I am not sure the broad spectrum of national issues is pertinent to his appointment as Privacy Commissioner. I think he is admirably suited to be Privacy Commissioner.
Senator Prud'homme: We do not want to know about his private views. I am talking about his public views.
Hon. NoŰl A. Kinsella (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I rise to speak to the motion which is before us. I would take as my general schema in approaching this question that, given the success of Mr. Bruce Phillips as the last Privacy Commissioner, we ought to follow the same ratification or approval process that was utilized when his commendation was before the Senate. We should take our time and be deliberate. I cannot remember how many months it took, or was it years? I am advised it took six months.
Senator Lynch-Staunton: At least.
Senator Kinsella: I think that this house might be able to do a little bit better than taking six months to review this particular nomination. I will certainly do my part to see that we do our duty in the approval process as required by the act because of the importance of the right of privacy that was articulated by Senator Hays in his remarks on moving this motion.
This sort of ombudsman-type model that we have adopted in Canada has been highly successful. The fact is that the model that we are utilizing is one wherein the Privacy Commissioner is an officer of Parliament and is obligated to report to both Houses of Parliament. When one examines in detail the report of prior submissions to this house from the Privacy Commissioners, one can see that it takes a little bit of time to understand the appropriate protocol and the proper form of address when sending reports to this house. One will recall, for example, that the penultimate report did not properly address the Speaker of the Senate, and I would hope that the new commissioner will pay attention to detail not only because the commissioner is an officer of both Houses of Parliament, but also because this institution of Parliament is very much involved in the protection of privacy.
Privacy is not simply delegated to an officer of Parliament. We are not absolved of our role as parliamentarians to protect privacy. The commissioner is an officer of Parliament and does not replace Parliament. We maintain our responsibility and duty in the promotion and protection of the privacy rights of Canadians.
I would hope, for example, a number of the more contemporary issues of privacy will be raised with this candidate when he appears before, as I understand from the comments made by the Deputy Leader of the Government, the Committee of the Whole expected to be convened during the week of October 16.
I would even make the suggestion that we try to agree now that we will invite the candidate to appear before the Committee of the Whole at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, October 16. Knowing this time to be certain, all honourable senators would be able to prepare over the next 10 days the kinds of inquiries that they would like to make of the candidate. As Senator Prud'homme has suggested, after that hearing with the candidate, there would be a report to the Senate and a fulsome debate on the proposition of confirmation or not confirmation.
We are seized already in this house with a number of legislative initiatives, for example Senator Finestone's bill which is before one of our standing committees, which deal with privacy. The issue of privacy, indeed, is often raised in the legislation that remains before us. This house is very much concerned with questions of privacy. I think it is appropriate that we would want to examine in detail our principal officer who will deal with privacy matters.
With that, honourable senators, I think that we might be well advised to try to achieve the same quality of analysis that was achieved when we examined the candidacy of Mr. Bruce Phillips, but try to do it within a time line that would be more prospective.
Senator Hays: I have a question of the Honourable Senator Kinsella, honourable senators, and this will be my opportunity to respond as well. Senator Kinsella mentioned 4:00 p.m. on Monday, October 16 as a good time to convene a Committee of the Whole. I am not sure whether 4:00 p.m. is appropriate. Would the honourable senator be agreeable to some time later in the afternoon, perhaps when the Senate rises? Hopefully we would be available for a Committee of the Whole by 4:00 p.m. However, I would ask the honourable senator how much flexibility he has in mind when he sets out that time frame.
Senator Kinsella: As my honourable friend would be willing to testify, in his dealings with me there is always great flexibility. It is not, however, like the legend attributed to a great philosopher, namely, that everything about me is in flux, to the extent you can never step twice into the same spot of the river.
Senator Hays: Honourable senators, I move that the debate stand adjourned until the next sitting of the Senate.
The Hon. the Speaker: You have spoken to the motion, though, Honourable Senator Hays. Can someone else adjourn the debate?
Hon. John Lynch-Staunton (Leader of the Opposition): I will adjourn it, then.
On motion of Senator Lynch-Staunton, debate adjourned.