Alberta privacy commissioner explains rules around shredding government papers

A bag of shredded paper sits in the halls of the Alberta Legislature Wednesday, May 6, 2015. Fletcher Kent, Global News

EDMONTON – As the transition to a new regime unfolds in Alberta, the province’s Privacy Commissioner is reminding politicians and the public about the rules regarding the shredding of government records.

In a news release issued Thursday, commissioner Jill Clayton says it is a criminal offence to “wilfully destroy records to evade access requests.”

Such a breach could lead to a fine of up to $10,000.

Clayton says she has the power to conduct an investigation if laws related to the destruction of records are not being followed.

A lot of incumbents, including several former ministers in the Tory government of Jim Prentice, are cleaning out their desks this week to make room for the new NDP majority government.

Clayton says that legislation requires government ministers to develop a records management program establishing rules for the retention, destruction or archiving of public records, and employees are required to adhere to those rules.

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“These rules apply and must be followed during the government’s transition period,” Clayton said in the release. “If there is evidence that the rules are not being followed, a complaint can be submitted to my office.”

However, she notes the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act does not apply to records of the office of the Speaker, records of the offices of an MLA, or personal or constituency records of a cabinet minister.

She also says personal information used to make a decision that directly affects an individual must be retained for at least one year after using it, so that the individual has a reasonable opportunity to obtain access.

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