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Minister’s suspicions about Wheat Board leaks unfounded

In November 2009, the then-Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, who was also responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, filed a privacy complaint against the wheat marketing agency.

The complaint was sparked by media reports about an internal wheat board audit on the Permit Book process, which tracks grain sales made by Western Canadian producers through the wheat board.

One of the questions raised by the audit was whether the Canadian Wheat Board had improperly disclosed to third parties such personal information as the farmers’ Social Insurance Numbers (SINs). Third parties included grain handlers who facilitate sales transactions, and the Canada Revenue Agency.

The audit, conducted in 2008 and made public under an access-to-information request in the fall of 2009, highlighted potential privacy weaknesses. The resulting media coverage left the impression of impropriety, after which the minister filed a privacy complaint to our Office.

Our investigation found that the wheat board has in place the appropriate protocols, procedures and agreements necessary to ensure that the personal information of grain producers is collected, used, safeguarded and shared with care. In particular, we found that the wheat board does not disclose SINs to third parties, and only shares personal data with the tax agency when required to by law.

Accordingly, the complaint was dismissed as not well founded. We also commended the Canadian Wheat Board for its good information-management practices.

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