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Statistics Canada asked banks in August to disclose the collection of customer data when pilot project launched

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Statistics Canada presented to banking industry officials in June and again in August regarding the collection of Canadians’ banking data, and asked banks to disclose the request to their customers when the pilot project launched, The Logic has learned.

Last week, the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA), which represents the country’s largest financial institutions, said it believed the project “was still in the exploratory stages” and was “not aware that Statistics Canada was moving to compel disclosure of this information.”

But The Logic has obtained an excerpt titled “Strategy for Transparency to Canadians,” from a Statistics Canada presentation given to CBA officials in August, which lays out a plan for how the banks should inform their customers about the proposed collection of 500,000 Canadians’ financial data.

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Talking Point

The Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) has claimed it wasn’t aware that Statistics Canada wanted to compel disclosure of 500,000 Canadians’ banking information. However, a document presented to the industry group in August by Statistics Canada laid out a plan for how the banks should inform their customers about the proposed data collection. Statistics Canada also made a presentation to the CBA in June about the project.

The Logic has also learned that Statistics Canada made another presentation to the CBA describing the pilot project in June, and sent letters on October 25 and 26 to the CBA, as well as to nine financial institutions.

Reached by phone, CBA spokesperson Aaron Boles declined to answer any questions, referring The Logic to the CBA’s statement from earlier in the week, where it claimed it was not aware of the request.

Privacy experts, the federal New Democratic Party and the federal Conservatives have asked Statistics Canada to halt the collection of financial data. On Thursday, the Senate banking committee will hold a hearing to examine the proposed collection.  

The August presentation called for information to be put on banks’ websites informing their customers about the proposed data collection.

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“To reduce costs and avoid collecting information that is already available, Statistics Canada is using administrative data to help improve social and economic statistics. To this end, NAME OF BANK is providing Statistics Canada with client financial data, under the authority of the Statistics Act,” reads the proposed statement.

“All information collected, stored or used by Statistics Canada is protected by the confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act and the Privacy Act. The administrative data obtained from NAME OF BANK will be used only to produce aggregate statistics.”

Statistics Canada also asked that banks direct customers to a section on its website about the collection of this kind of data, and further to ask customers to contact Statistics Canada if they had questions. The presentation states that this procedure is “similar to model used for other administrative data sources.”

Anil Arora, chief statistician of Canada, did not directly reply to a list of questions about the August presentation, including to whom from the CBA it was shown. Arora said Statistics Canada has worked with the CBA for the past year to “discuss and define the pilot project.”

“In October, we officially communicated with financial institutions to convey the authorities under which we would request access to the information,” said Arora.