Statement on the Passing of Robert C. Clark, Alberta’s First Information and Privacy Commissioner

July 13, 2020

Alberta’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton has issued the following statement:

“Alberta has lost a great community builder and leader with the recent passing of Robert C. Clark, Alberta’s first Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Bob was appointed to the role of Information and Privacy Commissioner on May 31, 1995, and led the development of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner in its formative years.

He saw the office through the expansion of the application of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act from government ministries in 1995, to school jurisdictions and health care bodies in 1998, and to post-secondary institutions and local government bodies in 1999. During his last year as Commissioner, the Health Information Act was added to his list of oversight responsibilities.

Bob exemplified the leadership he was already known for in political and community circles in developing the OIPC. He recognized from the start that he was not just a regulator. He was also an educator and an advocate for the principles of access to information and privacy, and he was willing to engage politicians, interest groups and stakeholders in those discussions.

At the same time, Bob appreciated that the FOIP Act was complex and that if it was going to be successful, it had to be workable for the smaller, less resourced public bodies. Although he was no longer Commissioner when the Personal Information Protection Act was enacted in 2004, his common sense, real life approach can be seen in the drafting of that Act, which considers the interests of small- to medium-sized businesses.

Governments can enact freedom of information legislation but unless there is a champion – an advocate for the principles – the legislation languishes and is merely symbolic. Although Bob resigned as Information and Privacy Commissioner in 2001, he left an indelible imprint on the access and privacy world in Alberta. His legacy lives on today.

My condolences and best wishes go to Bob’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

Mr. Clark had a long and storied career in public service, including as MLA, government minister, leader of the official opposition and ethics commissioner, prior to his role as Information and Privacy Commissioner. He was also widely recognized for his contributions to his community, particularly junior hockey and post-secondary education.