I am going tell you about a privacy problem with Revenue Canada. The story is true but I will use Party A and Party B to protect the privacy of the people involved. It illustrates so well the huge gap, the contradiction, between what the government (any level of government) says and what it does.

Party A received a notice from Revenue Canada stating that authorization had been given to Party B to access Party A’s tax information, in accordance with the form signed by Party A. Party A immediately phoned Revenue Canada informing them that Party A had never signed any such form. Revenue Canada immediately removed Party B’s authorization to access Party A’s supposedly confidential information.

Party A then asked for more information, such as a copy of the form, how it was submitted (by mail or fax), etc. because this involved potential violation of privacy rights, fraud, forgery, etc. Party A was told to fax a request and given two fax numbers. A fax was sent to the first number and when a reply wasn’t forthcoming, a fax was sent to the second number. Two months later Party A still had not received a reply. Despite contacting Revenue Canada several times and explaining that the situation involved a potential crime, requesting to talk to someone or be given an email to contact someone, no help was given. There was no one that Party A could talk to, or email, regarding this potential crime.

Finally, Party A sent emails to the Minister of National Revenue and the local MP (who was from a different party). No response was ever received from the Minister of National Revenue but the local MP was able to get an answer from the local Revenue Canada office.

An “investigation” was conducted, and Party A was told that Party A’s identifying number had been inadvertently entered on the form but Party A’s information had never been accessed. Revenue Canada obviously hoped that would be the end of it.

But Party A pointed out the list of errors, the problems in their system:

1. Party A’s identifying number was entered “in error” on a consent form (or so it was claimed).

2. The information was input into Revenue Canada’s system even though the other information on the form did not match the identifying number.

3. Two faxes were sent to Revenue Canada and “lost”.

4. Despite the fact that this was identified as a potential CRIME, there was no one Party A could speak with. Was this an error on the operators part (because Party A spoke to several) or was this policy? If this was policy, why does Revenue Canada have a policy that a person cannot talk to someone about a potential crime

5. Revenue Canada stated that the consent form was processed at the same time that the notification letter went out. In other words, access was granted before there was time for the notification letter to reach the recipient and allow the recipient to take action. In other words, someone wanting to access another person’s information has however long it takes for the notification letter to reach the recipient and have the authorization cancelled and, if the recipient is away, even longer. Is it policy to allow access at the same time the notification was sent out or was this another error?

Party A asked why the mistakes were made and what they were doing to fix the problems? Revenue Canada’s response was that they were committed to providing the best possible service but refused to answer the questions. This is also the government that says that they will get tough on crime, but in fact don’t even want to hear about it.

Do you see the difference between the words and the actions? Do you really think the provincial government and its agencies care, any more than the federal government, about the protection of your privacy?


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