U of O Watch mission, in the words of Foucault...

"One knows … that the university and in a general way, all teaching systems, which appear simply to disseminate knowledge, are made to maintain a certain social class in power; and to exclude the instruments of power of another social class. … It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticise the workings of institutions, which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticise and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them." -- Foucault, debating Chomsky, 1971.

U of O Watch mission, in the words of Socrates...

"An education obtained with money is worse than no education at all." -- Socrates

video of president allan rock at work

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ontario's IPC practicing unwarranted secrecy, procedural machinations, and condoning unethical practice

September 18, 2010

Ann Cavoukian
Information and Privacy Commissioner / Ontario
2 Bloor Street East
Suite 1400
Toronto, Ontario
M4W 1A8

(By email)

(E-mail CC: Work Ethics Watch; Democracy Watch; Canadians for Accountability; Canadian Association of University Professors; Ontario Ombudsman; and made public)


(Reference: IPC files PA08-149, PA08-224, PA08-245, PA08-97-2, PA08-158-2.)

Dear Dr. Ann Cavoukian,

Unwarranted secrecy

I have recently received two letters dated September 13, 2010, signed by IPC Adjudicator Catherine Corban (PA08-97-2, PA08-158-2). These are cover letters inviting my submissions for IPC inquiries.

In the recent past (October 29, 2009) I have received three such notices signed by IPC Adjudicator Colin Bhattacharjee (PA08-149, PA08-224, PA08-245).

The October 2009 notices stated:
“Please find attached severed copies of the University’s representations… Portions of these representations have been withheld because they fall within this office’s confidentiality criteria on the sharing of representations.”
Whereas the September 2010 letters state:
“Please find attached the non-confidential representations of the University. Please note that portions of the University’s representations have been withheld due to confidentiality concerns.”
Contrary to the October 2009 stated IPC policy, the September 2010 letters describe an unwarranted application of secrecy consisting in the IPC not disclosing the University of Ottawa’s submissions consistent with the IPC’s own established practice.

This is of concern to me because it appears to function in a way that is contrary to the IPC’s societal mandate regarding transparency and disclosure. It also harms my ability to respond in my submissions to the IPC.

I request an explanation regarding the IPC’s change of position.

I ask to be given the full representations following the IPC’s own confidentiality criteria on the sharing of representations.

I add to this my continuing concern that the IPC is anomalously not itself subject to the conditions of the Act (FIPPA) and that your office has not lobbied to bring the IPC under the purview of the Act. In this regard, your office has not been a model defender of transparency for societal institutions. Other provincial “IPC” offices are rightly subjected to the conditions of access to information laws.

Terms of reference changed in mid-inquiry

I am also concerned that the terms set out in the original IPC Notices of Inquiry for inquiries PA08-97-2 and PA08-158-2 were changed between the times the University was asked to make its submissions and now when I am being asked to make my submissions. The September 2010 letters sate:
“I am enclosing a Notice of Inquiry which summarizes the facts and issues in the appeal. This Notice has been modified to reflect matters arising from the representations [which I am not being allowed to see] of the University.”
It is difficult for me to understand why the IPC’s terms of reference on the “facts and issues” for the inquiries in question would need to be changed. I ask that you explain this.

Possible ethical breach in University’s use of the BLG law firm

Finally, I wish to inform the IPC of the following.

The recent University submissions (PA08-97-2, PA08-158-2) were prepared by the Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG) law firm. The former Chairman of the Board of Governors (BOG) of the University of Ottawa, Mr. Marc Jolicoeur, is the Regional Managing Partner of the Ottawa office of BLG. He stepped down as U of O BOG Chairman in mid June 2010.

Mr. Jolicoeur participated in the administrative process that led to my April 2009 dismissal from the University, as is publicly documented. My dismissal as a tenured professor has not yet gone before a labour law arbitrator. Mr. Jolicoeur’s law firm is now working at profit to bar access to records that relate to my dismissal.

To the extend that this situation is an ethical breach for the University and for BLG, and now that the IPC has been explicitly informed, continuing to allow the involvement of BLG will constitute condoning and collaboration by the IPC.

I ask that the IPC disallow the participation of BLG in all IPC inquiries involving me.

Need for a quick response

Please respond immediately as the inquiry process imposes deadlines for my representations.

Please acknowledge receipt of the present communication.

Yours truly,

Denis Rancourt
Former physics professor, University of Ottawa

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