Position profile: Adjudicator

Learn more about the position in the job posting.

  • Job Title: Adjudicator
  • Work Unit: Adjudication
  • Ministry: Alberta Office of Information & Privacy Commissioner
  • Competition Number: 1053494

Position Summary

An Adjudicator is a member of the Adjudication team of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The main functions for this position are:

  • To independently hold adjudicative hearings as a direct delegate from the Commissioner of her quasi-judicial adjudicative function; in the course of those hearings, adjudicators develop and apply the law relating to access to information and protection of personal information under three statutes: the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Personal Information Protection Act, and the Health Information Act (the Acts).
  • To develop and apply fair procedures in conducting inquiries under these statutes; to provide advice and direction to the Registrar of Inquiries and adjudication support staff on the related administrative processes.
  • To engage in various work projects flowing from the Office’s operational plan.

An Adjudicator’s powers to adjudicate are delegated directly from the Commissioner. Adjudicators independently adjudicate disputes over access to information, and complaints about dealings with personal information, in the custody or under the control of public bodies, private organizations and custodians. They determine all matters of fact, interpret and apply existing laws and precedents, as well as develop the law, in relation to these matters.
Adjudicators issue binding orders which resolve the matter before them. Orders are final (subject to judicial review by the Courts). They may be filed as orders of the Court of Queen’s Bench, and become enforceable as such.

Orders are made to the head of a public body, organization, or custodian. In the case of inquiries under the FOIP Act involving the Government of Alberta, the head of the public body responsible for complying with an order is the member of the Executive Council responsible for the ministry in question. Orders may require public bodies to adjust their business practices in individual cases in order to comply with the personal information protection and monitoring requirements of the FOIP Act. Orders may impose similar requirements on private organizations or health information custodians.

Orders also become precedents that help resolve future cases, establish individual rights in relation to government information and personal information, and direct institutions as to how to deal with such information.

Specific Accountabilities

An Adjudicator acts as the delegate of the Commissioner with the full latitude of her adjudicative powers. Adjudicators are responsible and accountable for independently making quasi-judicial decisions in individual cases, deciding all issues of fact and law so as to resolve issues between the parties, and to ensure the principles of access and fairness are properly applied, including on an ongoing basis. More generally they are responsible for:

  • Ensuring an open and accountable government, and affirming the rights of citizens to government information, within the terms of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, by making binding orders to government to release records in accordance with that Act.
  • Affirming Albertans’ right to have access to their own personal information, including health information, within the terms of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Health Information Act and the Personal Information Protection Act, by issuing binding orders for disclosure of personal and health information to public bodies, organizations and custodians, in accordance with these Acts.
  • Finding a balance between the rights of individual Albertans to have their personal information protected and the need of organizations to collect, use and disclose personal information, within the terms of the Personal Information Protection Act, by reviewing complaints made by individuals about the collection, use or disclosure of personal information by organizations, and issuing orders binding on organizations in accordance with that Act.
  • Enabling health information to be shared and accessed, where appropriate, while protecting the confidentiality of the health information of Albertans, within the terms of the Health Information Act, by reviewing complaints made by individuals about the collection, use and disclosure of their health information by custodians, and issuing orders binding on custodians in accordance with that Act.
  • Ensuring that government bodies, custodians and organizations take reasonable measures to protect the personal information and health information of Albertans, by issuing binding orders to these bodies directing this to be done.
  • Educating Albertans about their rights under the Acts by issuing detailed, publicly-available orders, as well as interpretive bulletins, which explain the public’s rights under the Act.
  • Educating public bodies, organizations, and custodians about their responsibilities under the Acts, by issuing detailed, publicly-available orders interpreting the Acts, as well as interpretive bulletins, which explain their responsibilities under the Acts and how to meet those responsibilities.

Knowledge / Experience

Must have a law degree and experience interpreting legislation and policy.

Must have a thorough understanding of administrative law principles, procedural fairness and principles of natural justice, and common law principles such as the law of evidence, and how these rules are to be applied in individual cases, in order to conduct fair and proper pre-inquiry and inquiry processes, and to ensure the procedural defensibility of adjudicative decisions.

Must have excellent legal research and inquisitorial skills to enable gathering the appropriate legal materials (statutes and court and tribunal case-law), and to ascertain all relevant facts, for the cases arising before them, in order to achieve decisions that are factually sound and consistent with court and tribunal precedents.

Must have sufficient understanding of information systems to assess and address issues arising from the manner in which provincial and municipal governments, organizations, and custodians store and safeguard information, including electronic information.

Must have sufficient knowledge and flexibility to address new trends and technologies relating to information as they develop; for example, “cloud computing” and “DNA storage”.

Must have sufficient knowledge of health information and medical procedures and processes to evaluate arguments and evidence in relation to inquiries arising from the healthcare sector.

Must have an in depth knowledge of municipal organizational structures and board reporting structures in order to evaluate arguments and understand evidence provided by these parties.

Must have excellent analytical and reasoning skills and a high level of knowledge and experience in applying legal principles and interpreting statutes, and the ability to apply these skills to assess arguments and evidence, to properly interpret the three Acts and understand precedents, and to apply the law to the facts in thorough, well-reasoned and defensible decisions.

Must have the ability to deal with opposing parties in an adversarial setting, as well as to conduct oral inquiries in appropriate cases, sometimes with highly-contentious issues and combative parties.

Must be capable of making independent decisions, including decisions with cross-ministry impact, with only general guidance.

Must have highly-developed decision-writing skills that enable writing well-organized, thorough and defensible written decisions and orders, that clearly explain the outcomes to the parties, and educate the public and institutions about the legislation and how it applies to them.

Leadership and Business Know-How

The Commissioner delegates her adjudicative decision-making powers under the three Acts directly to the Adjudicators. For these purposes, an Adjudicator stands in the place of the Commissioner.

An Adjudicator independently issues decisions and orders that are binding on government and other public bodies as well as on organizations and health care custodians. In the case of public bodies, orders are directed to the head, who is a member of the executive council. Orders issued by an Adjudicator can be filed in Court in which case they become enforceable as judgments or orders of the Court of Queen’s Bench.

In addition to the effect their orders have in determining the outcome for individual cases, Adjudicators’ orders typically provide direction at a more general level to public bodies, private organizations and custodians throughout Alberta as to their information-handling practices. In this way, Adjudicators have a very significant leadership role as to information practices of all such institutions province wide, and in some cases (where Alberta precedents are relied on in other jurisdictions), even beyond provincial boundaries.

Problem Solving

An Adjudicator’s most immediate function is to solve often-novel legal problems, which is done by conducting inquiries into the facts and law, from inception to conclusion. This process involves:

  • formulating legal and factual issues,
  • gathering submissions and evidence, and asking additional questions or requesting additional evidence
  • holding oral inquiries as necessary
  • applying analytical skills to assess the evidence and make factual findings
  • applying research, analytical and interpretive skills to determine and interpret the relevant case law and legislation
  • applying the relevant law to the factual findings, to reach a decision that resolves the issues within the framework of the Acts, while ensuring an appropriate level of compatibility with precedents set by the Courts and this office
  • deciding an appropriate resolution that will resolve the issues between the parties but will also ensure the principles of access and privacy are protected on an ongoing basis
  • determining which of the Commissioner’s powers to apply to effect the best outcome for the parties and the ongoing support of the access and privacy framework
  • clearly explaining the decisions to the parties and to the public.

While there are some basic procedures in place, each inquiry brings with it its own set of unique facts and problems, often involving multiple parties, procedural questions, and novel and highly-complex legal issues that must clearly and properly resolve the problem in the individual case. As well, the orders must constitute an understandable and defensible precedent to guide future conduct, and to help resolve future cases.

The proliferation of technology requires Adjudicators to be prepared to respond to the challenges for protecting privacy that are continually arising in rapidly-changing electronic environments in which protections for personal information can increasingly be eroded. As well, Adjudicators must be alive to new technologies that enhance the opportunities for, and importance of, access to information.

Relationships / Contacts

Clients Frequency Nature and Purpose of Contact
Director of Adjudication Daily / Weekly Status updates on orders and projects, advice on issues, briefings, project development.
Commissioner Weekly / Monthly Briefings, updates.
Adjudication team members Daily Open communication and information/ideas exchanges, updates on projects and issues.
Registrar of inquiries and staff Daily Direction on inquiry processes, assignment of administrative tasks.
Senior Information & Privacy Managers Periodically Informal and formal discussions of orders issues and their practical implications and how those orders affect the stakeholders’ policies and procedures.
Inquiry Parties Weekly / Monthly Interactions throughout the inquiry process: pre-hearing procedure instructions, submission exchanges, supplemental submissions, preliminary rulings; indication/direction of outcome by way of final order
Heads of Public Bodies, Private Sector Organizations and Custodians Weekly / Monthly By way of orders issued and posted on the office website, on Quicklaw, on the Canadian Legal Information Institute website, and through office News Releases and the media, the Adjudicator, as a member of the Adjudication team, provides direction as to how these institutions are to collect, use, and disclose personal information, and how they should respond to access requests.
Albertans Weekly / Monthly By way of orders issued and posted on the office website, on Quicklaw, on the Canadian Legal Information Institute website, and through office News Releases, the Adjudicator, as a member of the Adjudication team, educates the public on their rights with regard to government information and with regard to their personal information in the hands of public bodies, private organizations and health care custodians.

There is regularly a high level of media attention, and interest by the legal community in the orders of this office. Accordingly, Adjudicators regularly face a fair degree of public scrutiny at an individual level, as well as scrutiny and commentary on their orders by the Courts and in media and by their legal peers in legal publications and discussion forums.
OIPCs from other jurisdictions As necessary By telephone conference to discuss issues affecting information and privacy an

Impact and Magnitude of Job (Scope)

Adjudicators’ decisions do not simply apply well-established law to facts. Often the Adjudicators’ orders are ground-breaking in terms of the interpretation of the three Acts, as well as in terms of developing administrative law principles. In recent times many such orders of this office have been the focal point in significant and high-profile administrative law developments, and have been discussed not only in the general media but also in national legal discussion groups and forums.
The effect of individual orders is often not limited to the particular case that was decided. More often the orders have more general application, and significantly shape how government and other public bodies, private organizations and health care custodians are to share government and personal information with Albertans. In the same way, orders can be very important in helping determine how, at a general level, personal information of Albertans in the hands of all such bodies is to be dealt with. On a specific level, public bodies may be required to alter their business practices, which may have significant financial implications.
The individual cases are not entirely driven by the parties: as delegates of the Commissioner, the Adjudicators are also to import considerations to ensure that any result reached is in conformity with the policy goals underlying the legislation, and they may take on an inquisitorial role to that end.

Insofar as the orders of Adjudicators have significant effects on the information-handling activities of all public bodies, private organizations and custodians in Alberta, the role of Adjudicator is of significance province wide, and in some cases (where Alberta precedents are relied on in other jurisdictions), even beyond provincial boundaries.

An error-prone or ineffective adjudicative function would harm the reputation of the Office as an expert tribunal, with a corresponding decline in the level of deference given by the Courts. This result would reflect negatively on this office and the Commissioner, and could undermine the validity of the current statutory scheme for dealing with access to information requests and complaints about the collection, use and disclosure of personal information.

The Government of Alberta is committed to a diverse and inclusive public service that reflects the population we serve to best meet the needs of Albertans. Consider joining a team where diversity, inclusion and innovation are valued and supported. For more information on diversity and inclusion, please visit the Diversity and Inclusion Policy.