Aboriginal Affairs seeks sensitive document left by microwave

Radio-Canada has obtained email correspondence that suggests copies of a 3-page document containing sensitive human resources information were left near an office microwave in the Aboriginal Affairs department.

Emails suggest scramble to locate copies of confidential 3-page document

Radio-Canada has obtained an e-mail exchange that suggests copies of a sensitive human resources document were left by a microwave in the Gatineau, Que. office of the Aboriginal Affairs department. (Radio-Canada)

Radio-Canada has obtained email correspondence that suggests copies of a three-page document containing "sensitive notes and information about human resources" were left on an office microwave last Tuesday in a Gatineau, Que. office of the Aboriginal Affairs department.

The email exchange, dated last Friday, includes a message from a departmental manager who writes that leaving the document behind and subsequently distributing the copies to other employees represents a "breach under the Privacy Act."

Twenty employees were sent the email message, which told them not to read document, but either immediately return or confirm they had destroyed their copy.

If recipients didn't receive it, they were asked to confirm that in writing.

The manager also warned employees not to "share this information with anyone, either by sharing the document or by sharing the content by any other means (verbally, notes, etc.)."

The department did not respond to Radio-Canada's requests for an interview about the apparent confidentiality breach, but a spokesperson wrote that the matter was "treated in accordance with departmental guidelines." However, the department did not confirm that all the copies of the document, dated Jan. 9, 2013, had been located.

The spokesperson said that because the department sees the issue as an internal human resources matter it would be inappropriate to comment further. The spokesperson also said policies and practices would be reviewed to prevent this from happening again.

Last Thursday, officials from Human Resouces and Skills Development Canada apologized at a Commons committee for the loss of a hard drive and USB key containing the personal information of some half-million Canadians who had government student loans.

Former Aboriginal Affairs minister John Duncan resigned late Friday afternoon after admitting he wrote to a tax court judge to provide a character reference for a constituent in June, 2011. Heritage Minister James Moore is now in charge of the department until a new permanent minister is named.