From: The Windsor Star, January 26, 2010, Privacy commissioner shoots down gun registry complaint.
Posted by cgccanada on January 27, 2010
By Janice Tibbetts
OTTAWA — The RCMP did not violate the privacy rights of gun owners by giving their names, phones numbers and firearms information to a private pollster to conduct a survey about feelings on the controversial gun registry, says the federal privacy commissioner. Jennifer Stoddart dismissed a complaint from former public safety minister Peter Van Loan, who last September, asked the commissioner to investigate what he described as an “offensive and inappropriate” sharing of personal information. “The complaint is not well-founded,” the commissioner said in a report posted Tuesday on the agency’s website. The privacy commissioner said EKOS acted properly as a government contractor when it called 10,000 of Canada’s 1.9 million gun owners, that the pollsters were security screened and that they deleted their raw data after turning over their findings to the Mounties. “The investigation confirmed that EKOS properly safeguarded the information under its control,” said the report. “Furthermore, it is not unusual for a federal government department to engage experts from external organizations, under contract, to carry out a variety of services.” Van Loan, in filing his complaint, seized on the RCMP information sharing as evidence that the fears of gun owners — that their personal information would be abused — had come to fruition. The Harper Conservatives have pledged for years to abolish the contentious registry for rifles and shotguns, created by the former Liberal government as part of a 1995 gun-control package passed in the wake of the 1989 Montreal massacre, in which 14 women were shot dead. In November, MPs voted by a clear margin to give their “support in principle”_to repealing the registry, signalling for the first time since the program was adopted, that it is headed for the scrap heap. The private member’s bill, sponsored by Conservative backbencher Candice Hoeppner, had the support of enough Liberals and New Democrats to survive the first vote in the House of Commons and it will now head to an all-party committee for study after Parliament resumes in March. EKOS conducted the poll last September and the privacy commissioner noted that the RCMP instructed the firm to halt the survey after talking to about 2,000 firearms owners, short of its goal of 2,500. “The survey was conducted by an independent third party to ensure that respondents felt in no way obligated to participate as they might, were they to be contacted by the RCMP directly,” said the privacy commissioner’s report. Chris McCluskey, a spokesman for Vic Toews, the new public safety minister, said the government “expressly disapproves” of the use of the poll. “Our government maintains that the use of long-gun owners’ personal information was intrusive and inappropriate,” McCluskey said in an e-mail.
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