Diane McLeod-McKay, the territory’s information and privacy commissioner, ombudsman, and public interest disclosure commissioner, saw her workload double in 2018 compared to the year prior due to a sudden spike in whistleblower cases and requests to review the outcomes of access-to-information requests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Yukon’s public-service watchdog releases 2018 summary report

All three of the Diane McLeod-McKay’s offices saw increases in workload in 2018 compared to 2017

The Yukon’s public-service watchdog saw her workload double in 2018 compared to the year prior, with a sudden spike in whistleblower cases and requests to review the outcomes of access-to-information requests making up the lion’s share of the work.

Those were among the findings contained in the 2018 annual report by Diane McLeod-McKay, who serves as the territory’s ombudsman, information and privacy commissioner and public interest disclosure commissioner.

The 34-page document, released April 29 after being tabled in the legislative assembly, outlines the key achievements as well as challenges faced by each of McLeod-McKay’s offices last year, and also provides examples of cases that each handled.

In the report’s opening message, McLeod-McKay describes 2018 as an “incredibly busy and challenging year” for her offices — on top of having to fill three out of five staffing positions, her offices also opened 180 files in total, compared to 90 in 2017.

The busiest office was the one of the information and privacy commissioner (IPC), which accounted for 136 files in 2018. (In 2017, by comparison, the office opened just 64).

Of those, 59 files were requests for review of the decisions made by various Yukon government departments in response to access to information requests, which are governed by the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPP).

The report pointed at lack of proper training and willingness to cooperate with the IPC amongst the staff at public bodies as the reasons behind a spike in requests for review — for example, not knowing how to properly conduct searches for records and taking months to provide the IPC with records that are subject to a review.

In an interview April 30, McLeod-McKay added that the lack of proper upfront work by some public bodies has a “domino effect.”

“When things aren’t … going well within the departments, it flows through to my office, and of course, that just means a whole bunch of resources being used to process these requests that shouldn’t be occurring,” she said.

“… I’m so backlogged right now, I have adjudications that are a year old that I can’t get to. And it’s very problematic from an access-to-information perspective, and distressing, I think, from a public who have a right of access.”

The IPC office also saw a “slight increase” in Health Information Privacy and Management Act (HIPMA) files in 2018, opening 33 compared to 31 in 2017.

McLeod-McKay said she plans on asking for funding for an additional employee in 2020-2021 because, at the moment, the office’s workload is not sustainable.

On the public interest disclosure commissioner side, the report says the office saw a “significant increase” in cases involving the Public Interest Disclosure of Wrongdoing Act (PIDWA) — 14 in 2018, compared to just two the year prior.

“Cases received under PIDWA have proven to be large and complex; they take a significant amount of resources to investigate,” the report says, adding that the office has experienced “challenges” with both the justice and health and social services departments when it comes to obtaining evidence. “These cases have significantly taxed the resources in my office and our ability to deliver on all our mandates.”

The most well-known of the cases, perhaps, was a complaint into how staff were treating children at Whitehorse group homes.

McLeod-McKay attributed the “spike” in PIDWA cases to more public-service employees now knowing about the legislation and feeling more comfortable coming forward with complaints after becoming familiar with it.

The report notes that after PIDWA came into effect, the office received no additional funding or resources despite the extra responsibilities it took on under the act, meaning there was just one employee dedicated to investigations — 12 in 2018.

The Yukon government approved McLeod-McKay’s request for funding for one additional full-time employee for 2019-20, the report says.

Like the other offices, the Yukon Ombudsman also saw an increase in complaints, although the report describes it as “marginal” — 30 in 2018, compared to 25 the year before. Eight of those complaints were about the Department of Health and Social Services; five were about the justice department; and another five were about the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.

In most of the cases, the report notes, the office found that the public body had acted fairly, but in some cases, found “the need to increase transparency, so that individuals can access information more readily about those services.”

The report also noted that the ombudsman can only launch investigations after it receives complaints, and not under its own volition. This had an impact on the group homes investigation, the report says, which was triggered by a complaint under PIDWA but which the office thought would have been better-suited for the ombudsman.

In her interview, McLeod-McKay added that the annual report was not just intended for the Yukon government to read.

“I would encourage people to read the stories and if they have any questions about issues that they may be facing or things they want to ask us about, that they should contact our office,” she said.

McLeod-McKay’s full report is available online here.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Access to InformationYukonYukon health and social services

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Watson Lake on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three new COVID-19 cases identified in Watson Lake

The Yukon government has identified three locations in town where public exposure may have occurred

Asad Chishti, organizer of the rally to support the conservation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, leads marchers through chants with a megaphone outside the Bank of Montreal in Whitehorse on Aug. 28. The BMO is the second Candian bank to announce it will not directly fund oil and gas projects in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Bank of Montreal second Canadian bank to join ANWR boycott

BMO joins RBC, the first to commit to the boycott

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley speak during a COVID-19 update press conference in Whitehorse on July 29. Silver urged “kindness and patience” during the weekly COVID-19 update on Oct. 21, after RCMP said they are investigating an act of vandalism against American travellers in Haines Junction.
(Alistair Maitland Photography file)
COVID-19 update urges “kindness and patience” for travellers transiting through the territory

“We need to support each other through these challenging times”

Whitehorse Correctional Centre officials have replied to a petition by inmate Charabelle Silverfox, who alleges she’s being kept in conditions mirroring separate confinement, arguing that her placement isn’t nearly as restrictive as claimed. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Inmate not being kept in restrictive confinement, WCC argues in response to petition

Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC) officials have replied to a petition by an… Continue reading

wyatt
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Oct. 23, 2020

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Electricity and air travel

Letters to the editor published Oct. 23, 2020

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Irony versus Climate

Lately it seems like Irony has taken over as Editor-in-Chief at media… Continue reading

Evan Lafreniere races downhill during the U Kon Echelon Halloweeny Cross-Country Race on Oct. 16. (Inara Barker/Submitted)
Costumed bike race marks end of season

The U Kon Echelon Bike Club hosted its final race of the… Continue reading

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, right, before question period at the Yukon legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 7, 2019. The Yukon government announced Oct. 19 it has increased the honoraria rates for school council members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Honoraria increased for school council members

Members of school councils throughout the territory could soon receive an increased… Continue reading

Triple J’s Canna Space in Whitehorse on April 17, 2019, opens their first container of product. Two years after Canada legalized the sale of cannabis, Yukon leads the country in per capita legal sales. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon leads Canadian cannabis sales two years after legalization

Private retailers still asking for changes that would allow online sales

A sign greets guests near the entrance of the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on June 11. The city announced Oct. 16 it was moving into the next part of its phased reopening plan with spectator seating areas open at a reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CGC reopening continues

Limited spectator seating now available

During Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 19 meeting, planning manager Mélodie Simard brought forward a recommendation that a proposed Official Community Plan amendment move forward that would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend, currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
More development in Whistle Bend contemplated

OCP change would be the first of several steps to develop future area

Most Read