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Manitoba Natural Resources follows Ombudsman's office recommendations

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Jul 16, 1999

The Manitoba Ombudsman's Office has completed an investigation into the destruction of audio tape recordings of presentations made during public meetings held by the 1997 Manitoba Water Commission, a commission of Manitoba Natural Resources. Barry Tuckett, the Manitoba Ombudsman, found that this was an unauthorized destruction of records that contravened The Legislative Library Act. This Act sets out a procedure for authorizing the retention and destruction of records of government departments and agencies.

The investigation was launched on the Ombudsman's own initiative after an applicant under The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy was informed that there were no transcripts and that the tapes had been destroyed. The investigation confirmed that the tapes had been destroyed.

The Ombudsman made three recommendations to Manitoba Natural Resources in his report dated June 11, 1999:

  1. That Manitoba Natural Resources take steps forthwith to ensure that all boards and commissions operating in association with the Department are specifically and routinely informed, in writing, about recordkeeping requirements under Part II, "Public Records and Archives" of The Legislative Library Act and applicable regulations, policies and guidelines.
  2. That Manitoba Natural Resources take steps to ensure that the link between access and privacy rights under The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and The Personal Health Information Act and lawful recordkeeping practices is clearly understood within the department and its associated boards, commissions, associations, and agencies as defined in The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
  3. That Manitoba Natural Resources bring its entries in the Access and Privacy Directory into more ample compliance with the requirements of Section 75 of The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. 

The written response from Manitoba Natural Resources indicated that these recommendations have been accepted by the Department. Specifically, the Department's response states that it will undertake the following steps, with respect to implementing these recommendations:

  • Develop specific policy and procedures that will inform and monitor the recordkeeping practices of boards and commissions that come under its umbrella and which are subject to The Legislative Library Act and The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
  • Re-embark on a program of information dissemination regarding recordkeeping practice and its relationship to legislation
  • Conduct a review of the records scheduling program in light of records that still require scheduling and a review of current schedules that may require changes to bring the scheduling process up to date to comply with Section 75 of The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

In view of the archival disposition of the records, said the Ombudsman, "not only has the applicant been deprived of access to the records for his immediate purposes, but also Manitobans and students of Manitoba's experience over time have been deprived of an historical record of unquestionable importance. That the event concerned has been called 'The Flood of the Century' says it all."

The Ombudsman observed that there is a positive aspect to the incident in that the publicity generated will help alert other provincial government departments and agencies about the recordkeeping requirements of The Legislative Library Act. "While this investigation has focussed on the Manitoba Water Commission and Manitoba Natural Resources," he said, " I have a concern that the lack of adherence to legislated recordkeeping requirements and related policies is not restricted to these particular entities in the Provincial Government. I hope that the message of this investigation and of my recommendations is received broadly through the Government and its entities, " he said.

The Ombudsman's Office will follow up with Manitoba Natural Resources on the implementation of the recommendations to review the Department's progress. The Ombudsman's report will also be provided to the Minister of Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Citizenship who has responsibilities for authorizing the disposition of records through the documents committee process under The Legislative Library Act; for the Directory under The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act; and for reporting on the general administration of these Acts.