Personal Information Protection Act

Overview

The Personal Information Protection Act (SA 2003, c P-6.5) prohibits sanctioning employees who disclose contraventions, or foreseen contraventions, to the Act to the Information and Privacy Commissioner, or have acted or refused to act to avoid such a contravention. Any retaliation is considered an offence and is subject to a fine.

What kind of disclosure is protected?

The Act protects employees from punishment if they, while acting in good faith and on the basis of reasonable belief, have disclosed information to the Information and Privacy Commissioner regarding a past or potential contravention of the Act s.58.

The Act extend the protection to employees who, acting in good faith and on the basis of reasonable belief, have stated the intention of doing anything required under the Act in order to avoid having any person contravene the Act, or refused to do or stated an intention of refusing to do anything that is in contravention of the Act.

Who is eligible for protection?

The Act protects certain employees who have disclosed contraventions under the Act, should this disclosure be made to Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Under the Act, protected employees s.1(1) are individuals employed by corporations, unincorporated associations, trade unions as defined in the Labour Relations Code, partnerships as defined in the Partnership Act.

 

The notion of “employee” also includes individual who performs a service for, in relation to or in connection with an organization : 

  • as a partner or a director, officer or other office‑holder of the organization; 
  • as an apprentice, volunteer, participant or student; or 
  • under a contract or an agency relationship with the organization.

Similarly, the notion includes an individual acting in a commercial capacity, but does not include an individual acting in a personal or domestic capacity s.1(1).

How are whistleblowers protected?

The Act prohibits any person from taking any kind of adverse employment action against an employee who has made a protected disclosure  s.59(1)(e.2).

The Act does not define adverse employment action.

Any person who knowingly takes any kind of adverse employment action against an employee for having made a protected disclosure is guilty of an offence s.59(1)(e.2). Contravening persons are liable to a fine of up to $10 000 s.59(2)(a) and contravening organizations of a fine up to $100 000 s.59(2)(b)

Although, a person or organization will not be prosecuted if they are found to be complying with a Commissioner’s requirements under the Act s.59(3), or if the Commissioner believes they acted reasonably given the circumstances s.59(4).

How should disclosures be made?

Be careful! Despite presenting some challenges for follow ups, one of the best protections for whistleblowers is their anonymity. Be cautious when providing any information through electronic means, especially emails! Read the security tips section.

An employee of an organization may make a disclosure of wrongdoing to the Information and Privacy Commissioner. To be protected, the disclosure must be made within two years from the day on which the alleged wrongdoing was committed s.59(5) and must: 

  • be made in writing;
  • using the prescribed form; and  
  • be sent to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta via mail, fax or email (complaint_review@oipc.ab.ca).

The Commissioner must give a copy of orders made under s. 52 to the individual who asked for the review or initiated the complaint, the organization concerned, and the Minister  s. 52(5).

The order may be filed with a clerk of the Court of Queen’s Bench and, after filing, the order is enforceable as a judgment or order of that Court s. 52(6).

It is recommended that employees retain a copy of a written access request made under any of the Acts, as the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner may ask employees to produce the copy in its review process.

Mail / Fax Information: 

Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (Edmonton)
#410, 9925 - 109 Street
Edmonton, Alberta
T5K 2J8

Phone: 780-422-6860
Toll Free: 1-888-878-4044
Fax: 780-422-5682

Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (Calgary)
Suite 2460, 801 6 Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta
T2P 3W2

Phone: 403-297-2728
Toll Free: 1-888-878-4044
Fax: 403-297-2711