Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced the appointment of Chantal Bernier, currently Assistant Privacy Commissioner, as Interim Privacy Commissioner effective December 3, 2013.
Ms. Bernier's appointment takes effect on the retirement of Jennifer Stoddart as Commissioner. Ms. Stoddart was appointed on December 3, 2003, on the eve of the full coming into force of the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). To say her tenure has been eventful may be an understatement, with technology and security issues threatening to overpower the effectiveness of the law. However Ms. Stoddart's office, frequently in conjunction with one or more of the provincial Commissioners, or with international privacy authorities, has risen to the challenge. She gained wide respect for taking on Facebook's privacy practices, for producing reports on major data breaches, for addressing privacy-restrictive threats in proposed lawful access legislation, and for staying abreast of the rapidly evolving online and social media technologies that challenge privacy compliance.
Ms. Bernier has been Assistant Privacy Commissioner since 2008. Prior to her current position, she served as Assistant Deputy Minister in two federal departments and, earlier in her career, as Senior Advisor on Gender Equality with the Department of Justice. Like the outgoing Commissioner, Ms. Bernier is a lawyer by training.
The appointment as Interim Commissioner is made to enable a competitive process for appointment of Ms. Stoddart's successor to occur (3-6 months). Ms. Bernier can be considered a candidate for appointment as Commissioner. Other possible candidates include the B.C. and Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioners, Elizabeth Denham and Jill Clayton respectively. However each of them was appointed to their current position within the last two years and therefore may not be inclined to consider a new appointment at this time.
It can be expected that there will be no significant change in direction at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner during Ms. Bernier's interim appointment, nor if she is appointed Commissioner. The fact that she has worked closely with the current Commissioner over the past five years suggests that if Ms. Bernier assumes the permanent position the direction and priorities of the Office will remain consistent with those pursued by Ms. Stoddart.