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Nunavut legislators usher in new laws

Jeanne Gagnon
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 25, 2012

Access to information and privacy, court-ordered family support orders, the building code, labour standards and debt collection practices were the subject of acts the legislative assembly passed during the assembly's spring sitting.

Inactive access to information requests will have an expiry date and public bodies will have to notify individuals when their personal information is breached under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The amended act replaces the one inherited from the NWT.

It requires the territorial government to release records, in the language they were filed, within 30 days but it also allows a reasonable time for the GN to translate the records in another language.

Under the act, requests will be deemed abandoned when the applicant has failed to respond within 90 days of receiving a notice, such as to provide a clarification or pay a fee.

"This should not be seen as a barrier to access as it does not limit an individual from placing another, even similar request in the future," said Premier Eva Aariak at the legislature on June 7. "It is an administrative tool we can use to ensure files are not left open from year to year."

The 90-day period starts from the last time they have heard from the applicant. It does not allow the territorial government to delay responding to a request for 90 days, explained Jessica Bell, manager of access to information and protection of privacy. She added sometimes people need more time to narrow their requests but the 90-day period only starts from the last time the office hears from the applicant.

The commissioner can now review how a public body has collected, used or disclosed personal information if there is suspicion it was done inappropriately. The act also requires a public body to notify individuals and the commissioner when a breach of privacy has occurred.

The amendments did not address fines, penalties or make municipalities subject to the act.

Information and Privacy Commissioner Elaine Keenan-Bengts did not return phone calls requesting comment on the change in legislation.

Court-ordered family support orders will now be enforced through the Family Support Enforcement Office created with the new Family Support Orders Enforcement Act. It replaces the Maintenance Orders Enforcement Act. Cambridge Bay MLA Keith Peterson tabled the bill in the spring of 2011 to provide time for review.

Justice Minister Daniel Shewchuk said the bill will ensure families and children receive the support they require and they deserve.

Canadian Forces reservists and Canadian Rangers won't lose their civilian jobs during periods of military service as the Labour Standards Act was amended to that effect.

"This bill will ensure reservists or rangers do not have to choose between their employment or their duty," said Shewchuk on June 4.

Anyone constructing a structure in Nunavut will be subject to the Building Code Act, which allows the territorial government to adopt the National Building Code of Canada and other codes.

Prior to the adoption of this bill, Lorne Kusugak, the minister of Community and Government Services, explained on June 5 anyone could build in the territory upon approval by the hamlet. He added the act now requires builders notify the Department of Community and Government Services of their intentions. This will allow the GN, through the permitting process, to know what construction is planned, said Kusugak on June 5. He added it will also enable the territorial government to establish a monthly schedule for the various inspectors.

"Right now, if someone's building a house, we find out the day before or the day of." said Kusugak on June 5. "It should help in better planning to make sure we have electrical inspectors available, whether they are on staff or not."

The previous act only allowed for enforcement to parts of the code to be applied to existing structures.

The act also sets up a 13-member advisory committee who will meet when needs arise. They will be able to advise the GN to make changes to the act specific to building conditions in Nunavut, such as the snow load the buildings must be able to endure.

The new act creates a chief building official position within CGS.

Debt collectors won't be able to call people owing money late at night or at work under new provisions of the Consumer Protection Act. The amended bill is a result of feedback the Department of Community and Government Services received reviewing the territory's consumer protection legislation in 2010.

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