OTTAWA — Canada's privacy watchdog has shot a big hole in one of the Conservative government's main arguments for destroying the records compiled by the long-gun registry.
Jennifer Stoddart said Tuesday there's nothing in the Privacy Act that prevents the federal government from sharing the data with provincial governments. The act actually permits disclosure of personal information, provided it's done through a federal-provincial agreement for the purpose of administering or enforcing any law or carrying out a lawful investigation.
Quebec wants to use the data to create its own gun registry, but the Conservative government, which has introduced legislation to scrap the controversial national registry, has flatly refused to share the records.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews last week maintained that transferring the data to Quebec would violate the Privacy Act.
When the registry was created, Toews said, gun owners were compelled to provide personal information "for a specific purpose with respect to a specific piece of legislation."
"The government cannot say now that it will ignore the Privacy Act or the commitments it has made in Parliament and transfer that information with the intent to use it in a non-authorized manner," he told the Commons.
However, in a response to a query from New Democrat MP Dennis Bevington, Stoddart said the Privacy Act "permits the disclosure of personal information" through federal-provincial agreements."
"Therefore, in appropriate circumstances, an information sharing agreement or arrangement put in place for the purpose of administering or enforcing any law (including provincial law) could assist to ensure any transfer of personal information was in conformity with the Privacy Act."