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 within 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 no earlier than 6:30 a.m. on the morning of its official release by Statistics Canada.
    • 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 for the April 2021 Labour Force Survey

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.

Need-to-know basis

This access is being granted exceptionally to a limit of two (2) 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 prepare briefing materials for senior officials and ministers. They are also subject to the enhanced security and governance protocols of the updated Policy on Official Release.

Next steps

The pilot is expected to continue through summer 2021 and will include consultation with departments and an evaluation of the results of the pilot project. Continued access for PCO and Finance Canada, or advance access for other organizations, can only be granted once the results of this pilot are proven satisfactory.

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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