Privacy of personal information is an important principle at Ginsberg Gingras. We are committed to collecting, using, and disclosing personal information responsibly and only to the extent necessary for the services we provide. We also try to be open and transparent as to how we handle personal information. This document describes our privacy policies.
What is personal information?
Personal information is information about an identifiable individual. Personal information includes information that relates to their personal characteristics (e.g., gender, age, marital and family circumstances, income, debts, home address or phone number, cause of financial difficulties), their health (e.g., disabilities, health conditions resulting in loss of income), or their activities and views (e.g., opinions expressed by an individual, our opinion about the causes of personal bankruptcy). Personal information is to be contrasted with business information (e.g., an individual’s business address and phone number), which is not protected by privacy legislation.
Who we are
Our organization, the insolvency and restructuring office of GINSBERG, GINGRAS & ASSOCIATES INC., currently includes three partners and over 80 staff members. We use a number of consultants and agencies that may, in the course of their duties, have limited access to personal information we hold. These include computer consultants, office security and maintenance staff, a file storage company, temporary workers to cover holidays, credit card companies, website managers, cleaners, our landlord, income tax preparers, and lawyers. We restrict their access to any personal information we hold as much as is reasonably possible. We also have their assurance that they follow appropriate privacy principles.
Main reasons we collect personal information
Like all insolvency and restructuring professionals, we assume a number of roles. For example, we can act as a trustee in bankruptcy, administrator of a consumer proposal, receiver, manager, or agent of a secured creditor. Depending on our precise role—which may change over time—the type of personal information we collect, use, and disclose about a debtor can vary.
However, in general terms, we typically collect personal information about debtors in order to understand their assets and liabilities, their income and expenses, their family circumstances, the reasons for their financial difficulties, and what contributions they might reasonably make toward their debts. This information is typically then used and disclosed to file the appropriate forms with the government (e.g., Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy, Official Receiver, Canada Revenue Agency) and sometimes the courts, advise the creditors of the debtor’s circumstances, realize the assets, collect any surplus income during the bankruptcy, pay off the creditors, and participate in the process for discharging the debtor from bankruptcy.
While we collect most of this information from the debtor, we may also collect some of this information from the creditors, the debtor’s family members, those involved in financial transactions with the debtor, public records, and others with relevant information in order to ensure that we have the most accurate information possible. This is part of our obligation as insolvency and restructuring professionals.
Debtors are usually asked to consent to this collection, use, and disclosure of their personal information. However, sometimes we may collect, use, and disclose information without consent, such as in the following circumstances:
- Where we act as an agent of the creditor for the purpose of collecting a debt
- Where we are required to do so by law
- Where the information is available in a regulatory public register
- In emergency situations
Consent may be written, verbal, or implicit.
Like most insolvency and restructuring professionals we collect, use, and disclose information about the amount claimed by creditors and the creditors themselves in order to evaluate and process the claim and make distributions. For example, the Statement of Affairs document distributed to creditors and filed with the government lists all known creditors and the amounts they are owed. Usually this information is business information, not personal information. However, some creditors are owed money in their personal capacity, and their contact and financial information is personal, not business. In this case, we may need to collect the creditor’s social insurance number as we do for debtors, in order to report transactions or related income.
As for debtors, we attempt to obtain consent whenever possible. Sometimes, however, this is not possible (e.g., we are required to circulate a Statement of Affairs to creditors by law). Creditors should assume that whenever they provide information to us, they also provide consent for us to use and disclose the information to the debtor, other creditors (who are entitled to know who else is claiming against the assets of the debtor), the government, and the courts.
A debtor’s clients and employees
When we assume ownership, receivership, or management of a debtor’s business, we have the same obligations as the debtor. If the business engages in commercial activities covered by privacy legislation, we collect, use, and disclose personal information in the same way the debtor is required to do. For example, we can only sell the client list or records of a business in the same way that the debtor could. For more information on specific circumstances, please contact our privacy officer.
Members of the general public
Our primary purpose for collecting personal information about members of the general public is usually to gather and review information that is relevant to an issue affecting our own debtor files (e.g., ownership and history of funds or an asset). Personal information is therefore usually incidental to our management of a debtor file. Often this collection, use, and disclosure is done without the individual’s consent because we are reviewing an apparent breach of agreement or the law and obtaining consent would compromise the investigation, or because we are required by law to make the inquiries.
Another main reason we collect personal information about members of the general public is to make them aware of insolvency and restructuring services in general or our firm in particular. For example, while attempting to collect as much work contact information as possible, we may collect home addresses, fax numbers, and email addresses. We try to obtain consent before collecting any such personal information (unless it is available in a regulatory public register), but where this is not possible for any reason whatsoever, we will immediately remove any personal information from our distribution list upon request.
Our primary purpose for collecting personal information about our employees is to facilitate work-related communication, other activities, and filing documents with the government (e.g., to discuss an assignment, send out paychecks, award employee benefits, and monitor employee performance, year-end tax receipts, and tax returns). Examples of the types of personal information we collect for these purposes include home addresses and phone numbers, social insurance numbers, and information for performance reviews. We rarely collect such information without prior consent (which is sometimes implicit), but it may happen in the case of a health emergency (e.g., an outbreak of a contagious disease) or an investigation of a possible breach of law (e.g., theft at the office).
Secondary and related reasons we collect personal information
Like most organizations, we also collect, use, and disclose information for reasons related to our primary purposes. These include:
- Billing our services or collecting unpaid accounts
- Notifying the public, citing referrals in our newsletters, and mentioning courses and services we offer
- Reviewing our files to ensure that we provide high quality services, including assessing the performance of our partners and staff. External consultants (e.g., consultants, lawyers, IT specialists) may also perform audits and reviews for the purposes of improving the quality of our firm, including file reviews and staff interviews
- Insolvency and restructuring professionals are regulated by the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy, provincial regulators for accountants, the Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals, and others that, in the public interest, may inspect our records and interview our staff as part of their regulatory activities
As professionals, we are also responsible for reporting any serious misconduct, incompetence, or incapacity of other professionals, whether they belong to other organizations or our own. Our firm believes it should report any information suggesting serious illegal behavior to the authorities.
External regulators have their own strict privacy obligations. These reports could include personal information about debtors, creditors, or other individuals to support these concerns (e.g., improper services), although we try to keep this disclosure to a minimum.
Like all organizations, various government agencies (e.g., Canada Revenue Agency, Information and Privacy Commissioner, Human Rights Commission, etc.) have the authority to review our files and interview our staff as a part of their mandates. In these circumstances we may consult professionals (e.g. lawyers, accountants), who will investigate the matter and report back to us.
Debtors, creditors, or other individuals we deal with may have questions about the services we have provided or how we have handled personal information about them. We also provide services to some individuals over a period of months or even years, making past records extremely helpful. We keep our insolvency and restructuring information for a minimum of five years after the last contact so that we can respond to such questions and provide these services.
If Ginsberg Gingras or its assets were sold, the purchaser would no doubt wish to conduct a “due diligence” review of the firm’s records to ensure that it was a viable business honestly portrayed to the purchaser. This due diligence could involve a review of our financial and service files. The purchaser would not be able to delete or record personal information. Before accessing the files, the purchaser would have to provide a written promise to keep all personal information confidential. Only reputable purchasers that had already agreed to buy the business or its assets could have access to personal information, and only for the purpose of completing their due diligence search prior to closing the transaction.
You have the option of not taking part in some of these related or secondary activities (e.g., by declining promotional materials, paying for your services in advance), but we have little choice with regard to some (e.g., external regulation).
Protecting personal information
We understand the importance of protecting personal information and have therefore taken the following steps:
- Paper information is either under supervision or secured in a locked or restricted area
- Electronic hardware is either under supervision or secured in a locked or restricted area. We use passwords on our computers. All our cellphones are digital, which means signals are more difficult to intercept. We nevertheless take certain precautions, as cellphones are sometimes switched to analog service
- Paper information is transmitted in sealed, addressed envelopes or boxes by reputable companies
- Electronic information is transmitted through either a direct line or an anonymous or encrypted message
- External consultants and agencies with access to personal information must provide us with appropriate privacy assurances
Preservation and destruction of personal information
We are required to keep personal information for a certain period of time to ensure that we can answer any question you might have about the services provided or how we handled personal information about you. However, in order to protect your privacy, we do not wish to keep personal information too long.
We keep our insolvency and restructuring case files for about five years. Our contact directories are much more difficult to systematically destroy, so we remove such information when we can if it does not appear that we will be contacting you again. However, we will remove such information immediately at your request.
We keep any personal information relating to our general correspondence, newsletters, seminars, and marketing activities for about two years after contact or the activity is over.
We destroy paper files containing personal information by shredding it. We destroy electronic information by deleting it and, when the hardware is discarded, we ensure that the hard drive is physically destroyed or reformatted.
You can review your personal information
With some exceptions, you have the right to see what personal information we have about you. Often all you have to do is ask. We can help you identify what records we might have about you and try to help you understand any information you do not understand (e.g., short forms, technical language, etc.). If we do not know you, we will need to confirm your identity before providing you with this access. We reserve the right to charge a nominal fee for such requests.
If there is a problem, we may ask you to put your request in writing. If we cannot give you access, we will inform you within 30 days and explain the reason as best we can.
If you believe there is a mistake in the information, you have the right to request a correction. This applies to factual information and not to any professional opinions we may have formed. We may ask you to provide documentation that our files are wrong. If we agree that a mistake was made, we will correct it and notify any party to whom this information was sent. If we feel that no mistake was made, we will still agree to include a brief statement from you on the point in our file and will forward the statement to any party that received the previous information.
Do you have a question?
If you have a question, contact our human resources manager, Michelle Déziel:
145 promenade du Portage
Gatineau (Quebec) J8X 2K4
She will do her best to answer any questions or concerns you may have.
If you wish to make a formal complaint about our privacy practices, you may submit it in writing to our human resources manager. She will acknowledge receipt of your complaint and ensure that it is investigated promptly and you are provided with a formal decision and reasons in writing.
This policy was established in compliance with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, a complex act that includes other exceptions to privacy principles that are too detailed to set out here. There are, however, few exceptions to the abovementioned commitments.
For more general inquiries, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Canada oversees the administration of privacy legislation in the private sector. The Commissioner also acts as ombudsman for privacy disputes. You can contact the Information and Privacy Commissioner at:
30 Victoria Street
Gatineau (Quebec) K1A 1H3
Toll Free: 1-800-282-1376