Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

MP's letter lists raft of email addresses

But assistant apologizes for something else

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OTTAWA -- Manitoba MP Joyce Bateman (C--Winnipeg South Centre) apologized Wednesday after her constituency office sent an email newsletter to constituents but forgot to hide the email addresses of more than 1,500 recipients.

The newsletter was sent by a constituency assistant to 1,533 people as an attachment to an email on Sept. 21. The email included nearly 15 pages of email addresses. Many recipients had never subscribed to the newsletter and questioned why they received it.

Three hours after the first email, the same assistant sent another email apologizing for sending it to non-subscribers.

"Our office experienced an unfortunate clerical error involving various email contact lists and many have received the Bateman's Bulletin in error," wrote Emelia Nyarku. "We are so sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused."

She then invited people to subscribe to the newsletter in the future.

But Winnipegger Jill Hudspith said the big problem is Bateman breached the privacy of 1,533 constituents by sending their email addresses to everyone on the list.

"I thought, 'Boy, oh boy, you're not apologizing for the right thing,' " Hudspith said.

She said she has never directly contacted Bateman but expects the MP got her email address from a recent petition Hudspith signed about saving the Experimental Lakes Area.

"She is my MP, she has gleaned information about me, and she has the right to contact me as her constituent," Hudspith said. "The issue is the carelessness in the office. All those people now have my email address. It's a question of privacy."

Hudspith said she emailed Bateman's office Tuesday to complain and had yet to hear back.

Bateman told the Free Press in an email Wednesday she takes every opportunity to communicate with her constituents but is sorry for the mistake. She experienced a similar gaffe during the 2011 federal election when an aide sent an internal list of potential voters to a member of the public.

David Fraser, a privacy lawyer in Halifax, said the privacy breach is a sign of carelessness but there isn't much people can do about it.

"It's a stupid mistake. They shouldn't have done it. But it's a problem without a remedy," he said.

Fraser said there are no laws that limit what political parties or individual politicians can do with the information they have on Canadians. He said although some might not consider email addresses private information, others would want to protect them.

Bateman's misstep with email addresses occurred the same day as an email from Calgary MP Jason Kenney to gay and lesbian Canadians. The email promoted the work the Conservatives have done to support gay and lesbian rights abroad. Some recipients questioned how Kenney had their email addresses and found it "creepy" they were on a list of gays and lesbians.

A spokeswoman for Canada's privacy commissioner said ministers' offices are not considered government institutions. Therefore, they are not covered by privacy law.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2012 A6

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