British Columbia

B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham to step down

Elizabeth Denham was central to several headline-grabbing stories during her term. She will become the U.K.'s new information commissioner in the summer.

Denham picked by U.K. government to become its new information commissioner

B.C. Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has been offered the post of information commissioner in the U.K. (CBC)

B.C.'s Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has informed the government she will step down from her position when her term ends on July 6.

Denham has been offered the position of information commissioner for the United Kingdom.

In a resignation letter to Minister of Finance Mike de Jong, Denham wrote it has been "a privilege to serve as British Columbia's Commissioner for the past six years.

"I leave believing that the independence and impartiality of this Office has served the public well," she wrote. "I also leave knowing that government's awareness of the importance of privacy and security of personal information, the need for good record keeping of government decisions and the public's right to know have been enhanced during my tenure."

Denham was appointed commissioner in May 2010, and has been central to several stories related to privacy and access to information in the province.

Most recently, she wrote a scathing report about the provincial government's "triple-deleting" of emails in various ministries after whistleblower Tim Duncan alleged he was ordered to delete emails related to a freedom of information request.

She was also a long-time critic of what she called "oral government" within the provincial government — "where business is undertaken verbally and in a records-free way." She said this undermines the freedom of information system by leaving little or no record of government decision-making.

Colin Bennett, a professor of political science at the University of Victoria, serves on the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner's external advisory board.

In an interview with On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko, he said that in addition to high-profile cases like the triple-delete scandal, Denham has built a reputation because of her work on lower-key issues like social media and technology to read license plates.

"Which [has] not only gained her recognition in British Columbia but around the world as well," he said.

Bennett says the U.K. job will put her in the middle of several upcoming privacy debates in that country including a new Europe-wide privacy law is coming up.

Before she takes up her new position, Denham will go through a pre-scrutiny hearing by the U.K.'s Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee. As well, her appointment must get final approval from the Queen.

If there are no complications, Denham will start her new position this summer.

With files from On The Coast

To hear the interview with Colin Bennett, click the audio labelled: B.C.'s Information and Privacy Commissioner stepping down


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