COVID-19 – Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) Update

Communique # 7 – Message from the Commissioner: Information about COVID-19

The evolving situation related to COVID-19 will naturally be a source of concern for employees and their families. During this difficult period, the OPC will seek to continue to protect the rights of Canadians while always ensuring the health and well-being of employees, and respecting collective agreements and labour relation laws.

Continuing to protect the rights of Canadians means we should strive to remain as close as possible to being fully operational, primarily through technological means and flexible work arrangements.

Ensuring the health of employees means, at a minimum, that the directions given by public health authorities must be followed. The OPC as employer will always facilitate this and will seek to respond to other health concerns as much as possible.

I know we are all seized with the importance of supporting each other while navigating this rapidly changing environment. 

As the situation evolves, changes to the approach below may be required. We will continue to keep everyone informed on a regular basis.

Flexible work arrangements 

In line with these principles, I am encouraging telework and alternative work arrangements whenever operational requirements and circumstances permit.

While our offices at 30 Victoria in Gatineau and in Toronto remain open for those who require to have access, most of our employees will be able to telework and are not expected to come to the office Monday. The few who cannot telework and are required in the office for operational requirements will be contacted by their managers. To be clear, unless you are required by your manager to be at the office Monday, you should stay home.

A reminder that all OPC staff who are able to do so should be prepared to work from home on short notice. This means that when leaving the office, you should bring home your laptop and cell phone or RSA token. 

We are currently working with managers and IT to make the necessary arrangements to extend telework capabilities to as many employees as possible. 

To help our workforce maximize productivity individually and collectively, please:

  • Use mobile devices whenever possible to send and receive emails;
  • Connect to VPN, get what you need from the corporate network and disconnect, which allows for others to do the same;
  • Limit your usage of bandwidth intensive sites and only use the internet for work-related purposes;
  • Limit the use of video conferencing on the GC network when audio conferencing will suffice;
  • Localize any files before leaving the office; and
  • Download documents outside normal business hours.


The Prime Minister advised Canadians to avoid international travel. In light of this, employees are asked to take into consideration public health travel advisories as per the active travel health notices and declare any intent to travel to their manager.

Employees that are required by public health officials to self-isolate: If in good health and able to work, you will be asked to discuss with your manager the option of telework. If that is not possible, you can be granted “other leave with pay (699 code)” as per your collective agreement. 

Individual cases may have to be examined on their own merits (i.e. if you willingly choose to travel to affected areas contrary to public health advice.) 

Employees whose children cannot attend school due to a school closure or because of attendance restrictions in place in relation to the coronavirus situation. Please do the following:

Attempt to make alternative care arrangements. 

If that is not possible, discuss with your manager the option to telework, which may include greater flexibility in working hours. 

If that is not possible, you can be granted “other leave with pay” (699 code).

The above provisions for disruption of school and daycare operations related to the coronavirus will remain available to employees and managers for the duration of the disruption in the respective jurisdictions but will be reassessed on April 10, 2020.

Mental Health

The Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer is currently preparing information for employees to outline key resources and tips for continuing to take care of mental health in our workplaces. 

We encourage you to seek help if you need it by contacting the 24-7 Employee Assistance Program (EAP), accessing care through the Public Service Healthcare Plan (PSHP) or using the nationwide Specialized Organizational Services (SOS).


If you have questions not already addressed in this advice, please send them to:

Finally, please continue to stay up to date through the and GCIntranet websites.

Daniel Therrien
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada 
Tel: 819-994-5841 / TTY : 819-994-6591

Reminder and clarification – Communique # 6 – Occupational Health Advisory: Information about COVID-19

As indicated in recent days, the situation around COVID-19 is very fluid. At this time, I would like to reiterate the message sent yesterday (see below note) stating that the OPC will be announcing a decision regarding its working arrangements on Monday. We expect that most employees will be authorized to telework, but this will not always be possible. Final planning decisions will be made Monday before a decision can be announced.

If you are a manager and know that some of your staff may not have access to this message over the weekend, please ensure to inform them if you have an alternate mean of contacting them.

I am writing to provide you with the latest update related to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The Executive Management Board (EMB) met once again this afternoon to discuss the OPC’s response to recent developments related to the virus. 

We are continuing to closely evaluate events and are in constant contact with central agencies. The advice and measures announced in earlier messages remain in place.


Some media reports have included erroneous information about teleworking plans in the federal government. We are still awaiting guidance on telework from central agencies. However, the OPC maintains discretion on how to implement teleworking. 

We expect to provide further information to employees on Monday.

Our priority is to meet the needs of vulnerable employees. Others can also discuss the potential to telework with their manager. As well, we need to ensure that operational needs are met.

A reminder that all OPC staff who are able to do so should be prepared to work from home on short notice. Please bring home your laptop and cell phone or RSA token at the end of each day. (In light of possible high traffic on our remote-access VPN if many employees work from home, at the end of each day, please download any documents that you may need to work on. If you do work from home, please limit your usage of bandwidth intensive sites and only use the internet for work-related purposes to help ensure the necessary bandwidth is available for official work duties.)

OPC COVID-19 Crisis Management Group

In order to manage and coordinate the response to the crisis, the OPC COVID-19 Crisis Management Group (CCMG) was established today with representation from across the OPC. 

This group will meet daily to monitor, take action as required and report on COVID-related issues. This group will also ensure employees have the latest information available. Details will soon be provided related to the activities of this group. 

Information sources for employees

We understand that employees are concerned about the situation and will be seeking information.

We ask that you check your emails and the OPC intranet site for the latest information. We recognize that some employees do not have remote access. They can call the OPC Emergency Hotline (819-994-5300). 

Employees who feel sick

Employees who feel sick or who have travelled to or from a country at risk should stay home and follow advice from health authorities. It is critical that you stay home if you become sick in order to avoid spreading illness to others.

You should self-quarantine for 14 days if:

  • You show symptoms of being sick; 
  • Someone in your household has been sick with possible COVID-19 symptoms; or 
  • You have been in direct contact with someone with COVID-19. 

Please contact your supervisor if you are sick or need to self-quarantine. 

Thank you for your continuing help to prevent the spread of the virus. For example, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water; use the alcohol-based hand sanitizers provided in the office; cover your nose and mouth with a tissue (or an elbow or shoulder) when coughing or sneezing. 

The primary authoritative source of information for all Canadians on COVID-19, including Government of Canada employees, is as well as the COVID-19 Information Line at 1-833-784-4397. If you have further questions or concerns, please raise them with your supervisor.

It is natural that people will experience different levels of anxiety in this situation. A reminder that the Employee Assistance Program provides free short-term confidential counselling for personal or work-related problems as well as crisis counselling to employees and their immediate family. 

Daniel Nadeau, CPA, CGA
Deputy Commissioner and Chief Financial Officer (CFO),
Corporate Management Sector
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada 
Tel: 819-994-6503 / TTY: 819-994-6591