Consular Policy Regarding the Use and Disclosure of Personal Information
Global Affairs Canada (GAC) collects, uses and discloses personal information in order to provide consular assistance to Canadians outside Canada.
The Consular Services Privacy Notice Statement summarizes the provisions of the Privacy Act and how GAC uses and discloses the personal information that it collects.
Details about the collection, use, retention, disclosure and disposal of personal information is available in the appropriate Personal Information Bank in GAC’s Info Source.
On this page
- Legislative authority to collect personal information
- Collecting personal information
- Privacy protection and access to information
- Use and disclosure of personal information
Legislative authority to collect personal information
Global Affairs Canada (“the Department”) is committed to the protection of all personal information collected and used in the operation and management of its activities, including, but not limited to, consular activities.
The Department collects, uses and discloses personal information to meet its legislative mandate under the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act.
The Consular Branch of Global Affairs Canada engages in its activities based on the various statutes it administers, its prerogative authority, and the powers it possesses by virtue of its status as a legal entity.
The Consular Policy on Collection, Use and Disclosure of Personal Information (the “Policy”) acknowledges that all personal information collected, retained, used and disclosed under the Department’s authorities is required to be in accordance with the Privacy Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Collecting personal information
Consular officials are available to assist Canadians (“the client”) with their needs outside Canada. In order for consular officials to provide assistance, they may need to collect personal information about the client.
At the outset, consular officials will provide all clients with a copy of the Consular Services Privacy Notice Statement (“the Statement”). The Statement informs the client of the purposes for which their personal information may be collected, used, retained or disclosed. The Statement can be provided in person, by email, by mail or, in certain circumstances, read to the client over the phone.
The Policy applies to all clients and their personal information collected in carrying out the consular mandate, including the rare cases where it is impossible to communicate the Consular Services Privacy Notice Statement to the client at the outset of a case.
Privacy protection and access to information
Consular officials will only collect personal information that is necessary to fulfill the purposes identified to the client. The Department is responsible for the personal information under its custody and control.
Personal information retained for administrative purposes will be retained in accordance with the Privacy Act and Regulations as well as for the departmentally set retention period necessary to fulfill the purposes for which the information was collected.
Personal information collected will be disposed of in accordance with the disposition schedule described in GAC’s Personal Information Banks (GAC PPU 005, GAC PPU 010 and GAC PPU 032).
The Privacy Act provides Canadian citizens, permanent residents and individuals present in Canada the right to seek access to their personal information that is held by the federal government. The Act also governs the collection, use, disclosure, retention and disposal of personal information.
For instructions on how to make an access request under the Privacy Act or the Access to Information Act, please consult the Global Affairs Access to Information and Privacy website.
In accordance with the Privacy Act, the Department uses and discloses personal information for the purposes of carrying out consular and emergency management services as well as for purposes that are consistent with and relate directly to these mandates.
Consular clients will be informed and provided with a Privacy Notice Statement either in writing or verbally at the first contact, summarizing the provisions of the Privacy Act and how the Department will use and disclose personal information.
Consular clients will also be asked to provide consent in order to have their personal information disclosed for the purpose of enabling consular officials and the Department to provide consular services to them.
Use and disclosure of personal information
Disclosure with consent
At the request of a client, consular officials may disclose personal information to individuals and organizations (friend, family member, spokesperson, etc.) identified by the client as persons or entities to be informed and kept apprised of the case. The scope of consent for disclosure includes the specific individuals and organizations with whom information can be shared, as well as the type of information to be shared.
Consular officials will obtain a Consent to Disclose Personal Information (“Consent”) at the initial engagement with the client, documented either in person or as an oral request by the official from the client and documented by the official in accordance with the Privacy Act. In the case of oral consent, consular officials will make every effort to obtain written consent at a later date.
Disclosure without consent and consistent uses
In accordance with the Privacy Act, consular officials may disclose personal information about a client without the client’s consent if the purpose of such disclosure is the same as or consistent with the original purpose for which information was collected in accordance with the Privacy Act.
For example, information may be disclosed where necessary to:
- contact, protect, rescue, repatriate, or evacuate Canadian citizens
- assist with arrangements for Canadians who become ill, are in need of medical assistance, or die outside Canada
- develop consular policy and communicate advice to missions outside Canada
In all instances of consistent use and disclosure, the Department and consular officials will make every effort to protect the client’s privacy by limiting the amount and specificity of the information disclosed to the minimum required in order to provide consular assistance. All instances of consistent use disclosure outside the Department will require prior approval by the Consular Case Management Division.
Information disclosure to other government departments
Consular officials will not disclose personal information to officials from other government departments (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), etc.), unless this disclosure is required to resolve a consular case or is consistent with the permissible disclosure sections under section 8(2) of the Privacy Act.
For example, personal information can be disclosed to other departments pursuant to the Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act, which permits information disclosure between Government of Canada institutions (as outlined in Schedule 3 of the Act) in order to protect Canada against activities that undermine the security of Canada, provided that the threshold in the Act is met.
The disclosure to other Government department officials requires an internal approval process and is performed in accordance with the Privacy Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, where applicable.
Other permissible disclosures without consent
Apart from consistent-use disclosures, section 8(2) of the Privacy Act sets out specific circumstances in which government institutions may disclose personal information without the individual’s consent.
A limited list of 13 conditions under which personal information may be disclosed without consent, includes but is not limited to:
- where in the opinion of the head of the institution or their delegate the public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs any invasion of privacy that could result from the disclosure
- where disclosure would clearly benefit the individual to whom the information relates
- for the purpose of complying with a subpoena or warrant of a court or other body having jurisdiction over the federal government
- to the Attorney General of Canada in legal proceedings involving the federal Crown
- under an agreement or arrangement between the Government of Canada and the government of a province, the government of a foreign state or an international organization
- for the purpose of administering or enforcing any law or carrying out a lawful investigation
- in response to a written request by an investigative body specified in the regulations
- for a purpose in accordance with other Canadian federal legislation, such as the Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act
Information normally not disclosed
Consular officials may not disclose information that falls into one of the following categories:
- Information requested under subsection 12(1) of the Privacy Act, the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to threaten the safety of individuals
- Information that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, unless it is waived by the client (all communications, oral or written, of a confidential character, between a client or their agent and a lawyer that is directly related to seeking, formulating, or giving legal advice or legal assistance).
This policy is governed and approved by the Assistant Deputy Minister of Consular Security and Emergency Management Branch (CFM). Questions and clarifications regarding the content of this guideline should be directed to Consular Policy and Planning at Global Affairs Canada.
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