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Region opens access and privacy office

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

In an attempt to improve transparency and accountability, Durham Region has opened an access to information and privacy office at regional headquarters.

The office is meant to help the public gain access to information regarding the region’s decisions and actions, and aims to protect the privacy of residents.

The office will oversee the region’s privacy management program, as well as process access to information requests, educate employees and external stakeholders on the region’s privacy practices, and manage responses to privacy complaints and appeals to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.

“The opening of the council-sponsored access and privacy office is another step forward in accountability and transparency for Durham Region,” said Regional Chair John Henry in a press release. “It is really an acknowledgement of the importance we place on supporting individual rights for access to information, and the fulfillment of our duty to uphold legislative requirements.”

The development of the office began back in 2016, when regional council approved a report, and after almost four years, the access and privacy office has finally opened its doors.

“I think [building the room] is a reflection of a couple of things. One is the increasing number of requests that we receive every year, as well the region recognizing… the importance of accountability and transparency, and how we operate,” says regional clerk Ralph Walton.

He believes this is an expectation of the public as well.

With the office just recently opening, Walton tells The Oshawa Express the process has gone smoothly.

“We had an open house, and had lots of staff come through. It’s in a very public area and the set up is one that it should be conducive for people to come in,” Walton said. “We have a front counter and we have a private room where [members of the public] can have a quiet space to [look at records].”

He adds the room also features space for three staff members. For those interested in using the access and privacy office, it’s located on the first level of regional headquarters, 605 Rossland Rd. E. in Whitby.