In one of her first official acts as Minister of Citizen’s Services, Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows MLA Lisa Beare has extended a temporary order permitting the use of additional communication tools in the public sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ministerial order has been extended to May 31, 2021. It will ensure health-care workers, educators and other public-sector staff can continue to depend on software and technology that has proven vital to B.C.’s response to COVID-19.
British Columbia has the strictest privacy and data-residency laws in Canada and is one of two provinces requiring the personal information of its citizens to be stored in – and only accessed from – Canada.
These requirements would normally prohibit the use of some communication and collaboration software that has helped the province keep people and communities safe during COVID-19.
For example, patient-care teams can use smartphone apps, text messaging, chat programs and other applications that make it easier to communicate with colleagues and patients during this time of physical distancing.
People isolating at home after travelling or potentially being exposed to COVID-19 can use their preferred chat applications to communicate with public-health officials.
Post-secondary institutions can provide online- and digital-learning and exam options as an alternative to in-person classes.
The B.C. government still insists protection of privacy is a top priority for them and the Ministry of Citizens’ Services.
It will continue to involve the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, as the order is reviewed ahead of the new May 31, 2021, deadline.
This act does not replace other procedures for access to information or in any way limit access to information that is not personal information and is available to the public.