The Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) governs how all private sector organizations in British Columbia handle personal information of clients, employees, and others. Personal information is defined as information that can identify an individual and information about an identifiable individual.
Our firm has always protected the personal information received, developed and used by us in the course of providing services to our clients and we have formalized our policies as a commitment to maintaining your privacy.
What Information We Collect and Why
We need our clients to provide us with all relevant facts and information related to our engagement. This information will include personal information about our clients and about other individuals with whom our clients conduct commercial transactions.
Consent for Collection, Use, and Disclosure
We will always try to collect personal information directly from the person to whom the information pertains, where practical, and we will collect personal information from other sources when necessary. If we need to collect information about individuals other than our clients, we shall do so in accordance with the provisions of PIPA. We will make reasonable efforts to ensure that the personal information we collect, use, and distribute is accurate and complete.
By engaging our firm to provide services, we consider an individual to have given our firm consent for the collection, use, and distribution of that individual’s personal information. Once this consent has been obtained by our firm, we will continue to collect, use, and disclose personal information for the purpose of providing the agreed-upon services without obtaining further written or verbal consent to do so. We may also collect, use, or disclose personal information about an individual without that individual’s consent as permitted under PIPA. Our standard form engagement letter also sets out certain matters relating to privacy and confidentiality relating to communications and information relating to our professional and regulatory licensing.
Our firm will maintain the strictest confidence with respect to any client’s or former client’s information. Accordingly, confidential client information will not, without client consent, be disclosed to any individuals in our firm beyond those who are engaged in providing services to the client. This policy applies to anyone outside the firm, except as required by law or under the Institute of Chartered Accountants of British Columbia’s Rules of Professional Conduct.
Our client files are accessible by all staff electronically and in hard copy. Our firm has an enforced policy acknowledged and agreed by all staff not to access or use client information other than in the course of providing professional services to or for that client.
In accordance with professional regulations, our client files must periodically be reviewed by provincial practice inspectors and by other firm personnel to ensure that we have adhered to professional and firm standards. File reviewers are required to maintain confidentiality of client information.
Our firm is a registrant with the Canadian Public Accountability Board (“CPAB”) and the U.S. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (“PCAOB”). Registration with these bodies is required to issue audit opinions for publicly-listed companies in Canada and the United States. Both CPAB and PCAOB require, under their terms of registration, access to our client files and engagement personnel in the conduct of their practice review and oversight mandates. File information, where requested by CPAB and PCAOB, will be made available for review, and staff and partners of our firm will provide information and where required, give testimony or evidence relating to engagement information and knowledge.
Such information would otherwise be restricted from disclosure under professional rules of confidentiality or under privacy legislation and firm policy. Information obtained from our files and personnel by CPAB and PCAOB may be referred or disclosed to other regulatory bodies and professional bodies. Such information may in turn be used by them in investigations, disciplinary actions and, where appropriate, legal or securities related proceedings.
Security and Retention
In recognition of our professional and legal obligations to protect confidential client information, we have policies and safeguards to protect against unauthorized access, collection, use, disclosure, copying, modification, disposal, or destruction of personal information.
We will retain client personal information for a reasonable time period as required by our Rules of Professional Conduct and the terms of our professional liability insurance policy. When no longer required, client personal information will be disposed of in a secured manner.
Requests for Access and Correction
Individuals have the right to ask, in writing, for access to their own personal information in the custody or under the controls of our firm as permitted under PIPA. We will respond to requests as accurately and completely as reasonably possible in the time allowed by PIPA. We are entitled to refuse access in certain situations when:
- The personal information is protected by solicitor-client privilege.
- Disclosure of the personal information would reveal confidential commercial information that could, in a reasonable person’s opinion, harm the competitive position of our firm.
- The personal information was collected for an investigation or legal proceeding that has not concluded, including any appeals (excluding CPAB and PCAOB requirements stated above).
- The information was collected by a mediator or arbitrator in conducting a mediation or arbitration where the mediator or arbitrator was appointed under a collective agreement, a law, or by a court.
- Disclosure could reasonably be expected to threaten the safety or physical or mental health of another individual.
- Disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause immediate or grave harm to the safety or to the physical or mental health of the individual who made the request.
- Disclosure would reveal personal information about another individual.
- Disclosure would identify the individual who has provided personal information about another individual and that individual does not consent to disclosure of his or her identity.
PIPA also allows individuals to request in writing that our firm correct errors or omissions. We will correct any factual errors and omissions and inform, where we feel it is appropriate, other organizations to which we have disclosed the incorrect information. If we determine there are no factual errors or omissions, we will annotate the record with the comment that a correction was requested but not made.