Notice of revisions to Statistics Canada's Policy on Official Release

The protection of sensitive data is of the utmost importance to Statistics Canada; it is a fundamental value ingrained in our culture.

There are occasions when limited access to advance-release information is necessary to brief senior officials and ministers in a timely way on information that impacts Canada's economy.

Enhanced technology, procedures and transparency

In keeping with the principles outlined in Canada's Digital Charter, enhanced security protocols have been developed to make Statistics Canada's Policy on Official Release more relevant in a digital world where information moves more quickly and is more easily shared.

The new protocols provide stricter controls and greater transparency: designated officials with advance access must comply with clear rules and are openly accountable to Canadians. This will ensure that the advance release of sensitive information is handled in a secure manner and with the utmost integrity so that the data are always kept safe.

Key updates to the Policy on Official Release include the following:

  • Transparency:
  • Technology:
    • Sensitive information will now only be accessed in an isolated virtual environment that will include login, authentication and audit features that uniquely identify and track each designated official every time they access the advance-release information.
    • The terms and conditions of use on this secure platform were updated according to the enhanced security and governance protocols.
  • Process:
    • Advance access to the information will be provided within a pre-defined timeframe. Officials will be asked to confirm their understanding of the Official Release Policy requirements, acknowledge that their online activities on the secure virtual environment are tracked, and commit to an undertaking not to disclose information in advance of its official release by Statistics Canada.

Pilot project on advance releases

The revised Policy on Official Release is being implemented through a phased approach, starting with a pilot project in May 2021 for the publication of the April 2021 Labour Force Survey results. This pilot was designed to give Finance Canada and the Privy Council Office advance access to the results.

Expanding the pilot project

Following the successful launch of the 2021 Labour Force Survey pilot, Statistics Canada intends to gradually expand this approach. Starting on February 28, 2022, the agency is proceeding with the advance release of results from two key programs: the Gross domestic product (GDP), income and expenditure, and Gross domestic product by industry, for the Bank of Canada. This advance release arrangement will support the timely and thorough analysis of data for monetary policy purposes, ensuring that the content of interest rate announcements and other public communications by the Bank of Canada consider the latest GDP figures. This analysis can be particularly and uniquely time sensitive, because there can be as little as a 24-hour gap between Statistics Canada’s System of National Accounts release and the Bank of Canada’s scheduled monetary policy announcement.

Need-to-know basis

Advance release access is being granted to a limited number of designated individuals per organization. They have been identified as requiring access to advance releases on a need-to-know basis for the express purpose of having adequate time to brief senior officials and ministers on information that impacts Canada's economy. They are also subject to the enhanced security and governance protocols of the updated Policy on Official Release, which includes using secure Statistics Canada infrastructure and the data not being extractable from the Statistics Canada server.

Background

Following the unauthorized disclosure of the April 2020 Labour Force Survey (LFS) results on May 8, 2020, the advance release of information contained in that monthly survey was suspended until further notice. With an internal investigation and a review of Statistics Canada's Policy on Official Release now completed, the agency has amended its Policy on Official Release to address potential requests from interested departments and other federal organizations.

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