Alberta Parent School Councils, PIPA, and Proper Email Address Etiquette

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The Alberta Budget is a hot topic, no matter the angle you personally take. School Boards are concerned that tax-payer dollars are not being spent properly. So concerned that just this week, I received an email from Chair of the School’s Parent Council which read, “we have been advised that the government is not listening to any school bodies (our trustees included) and are only considering letters and emails coming directly from parents/voters. Please take the time to take a look, and share with other parents with the same encouragement to get our voices heard by messaging our MLA”. The email was addressed to approximately 100 people, which unfortunately I know because the Chair failed to BCC (blind carbon copy) the other addresses.

Now, I understand that this is a passionate conversation for some parents, however, it is extremely important how you contact parents according to Alberta’s Anti-Spam and Personal Information Protection Acts. Here is some information if you are on a School Parent Council.

Frequently Asked Questions

InformationSource

Can a school council collect parents’ contact information, such as name, address and phone number?

A school council can collect personal information directly from the parent. The council would provide the parent with notice of the purpose for collecting the information (e.g. to communicate with parents about upcoming meetings, school events, etc.) and obtain consent. It is important that the notice cover all the intended uses and disclosures of the information.

Is a school council an organization under PIPA?

Yes. A school council, as established under section 22 of the School Act, is an unincorporated association and, as such, is an “organization” under PIPA (section 1(1)(i)(ii)). Therefore school councils are subject to the provisions of PIPA. School councils are not subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the FOIP Act), as they are not “public bodies” as defined in the FOIP Act (see IPC Orders F2006-003 and P2006-003).

What are a school council’s responsibilities under PIPA?

PIPA sets out requirements for how organizations may collect, use, and disclose personal information. The Guide for Businesses and Organizations on the Personal Information Protection Act is available to help organizations understand PIPA. School councils need to designate someone to be the contact person for any questions that may be received about the council’s handling of personal information. Councils also need to develop a privacy policy. Please see A Summary for Organizations for a more complete description of an organization’s key obligations under PIPA.

Can a school provide parents’ contact information to the school council?

Schools are required to comply with the FOIP Act. A school can provide the information in one of two ways. A school may obtain consent to disclose personal information from its records, or it can facilitate the collection of the personal information by the council directly from parents.

In the first approach, the school provides the personal information after obtaining consent. Schools normally collect the parents’ contact information as part of the student registration process. A school can ask the parent to consent to the school providing his or her contact information to the school council or the school fund-raising society. A sample form for this purpose is available in the publication entitled Using and Disclosing Personal Information in School Jurisdictions on the FOIP website.

Alternatively, a school council can develop a form requesting this information from the parents. The school would provide the form to parents, and the school would collect and forward the completed forms directly to the school council.

Personal Information Protection Act

Information Source

The Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) is Alberta’s private sector privacy law.

PIPA applies to provincially regulated private sector organizations, businesses and, in some instances, to non-profit organizations for the protection of personal information and to provide a right of access to an individual’s personal information.
Organizations, such as Parent Councils that are subject to PIPA must develop and follow policies that are reasonable to meet its obligations under the Act.

When PIPA refers to any thing or any matter as ‘reasonable,’ it is that which a reasonable person would consider appropriate in the circumstances.

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

If you’re located in Canada (or doing business in Canada) you’ll need to follow the requirements of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) which requires a minimum of implied consent.

CASL regulates ‘commercial electronic messages’ (CEM) which are defined broadly and includes any electronic message that has as its purpose, or as one of its purposes, the encouragement of participation in a commercial activity. An electronic message would include e-mail, text messages, and social media messaging and text, sound, voice, or image messages. Even if the electronic message itself is not related to a commercial activity, it may still be a CEM, having regard to the hyperlinks to other content or websites or the contact information contained in the message. — Violet A. French, Business Law Today

  • You can’t send a commercial electronic message (CEM) if you don’t have at least implied consent obtained within the last 2 years
  • Businesses had until July 1, 2017 to obtain express consent from their past clients or customers.
    CASL has administrative monetary penalties (AMPs) up to $1 million for an individual and $10 million for other entities per violation.
  • CASL’s reach can go outside of Canada. Since CASL sets a new standard for spam laws around the world, being compliant with CASL will help you be compliant with other laws.
  • Understanding Canada’s anti-spam legislation.
  • The difference between implied and express consent.
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