Open data advocates are strong privacy advocates.

This is why I am okay with today’s decision by Hamilton City Council to conduct their Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act training in closed session.

Municipal governments are permitted to conduct training in closed session.

However, like all open meeting exceptions, closed session should only be used when absolutely necessary.

There are two exceptional exceptions – municipal councils are required to enter closed session whenever directed by the Ontario Ombudsman or Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner.

This is usually to respond to ongoing investigations or draft reports.

Conducting MFIPPA training in public session risks inadvertently exposing private information because councillors’ questions can reveal specific information.

Under privacy laws, releasing indirect information which can identify an individual is a privacy breach.

Council can do better in the future by conducting separate training sessions.

One providing an overview of the City’s privacy practices, to be posted for the public in a “Municipal 101” type series on the City website.

The second session, in closed, can deal with complex situations and even specific cases.

Today’s vote to enter closed session was 7-3.
In favour: Mayor Horwath, Francis (W5), Jackson (W6), Pauls (W7), Danko (W8), Clark (W9), Tadeson (W11).
Opposed: M. Wilson (W1), Kroetsch (W2), Cassar (W12)

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Published: January 27, 2023
Last edited: January 27, 2023
Author: Joey Coleman
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