Getting Cloudy: A Review of Cloud Legislation in Canada

The private sector has thrived on the use of cloud solutions for years while the public sector remained reluctant. From delays in the federal cloud strategy to outright refusal of use in provinces like British Columbia and New Brunswick, the public journey to the cloud has been turbulent. However, Canadian federal and provincial governments are (finally) updating their cloud legislation; a shift that further proves that the benefits of cloud solutions far outweigh any risks.

We read and summarized the federal Cloud Adoption Strategy and changes to the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act in British Columbia so you don’t have to! These documents, and the process it took to get here, encapsulate the journey to cloud legislation in Canada.

Slow and Steady

Canada is notoriously slow to adapt compared to our southerly neighbours. This is especially true where technology is concerned. The United States government adopted a Cloud First Initiative nearly ten years before the Canadian government. Even further behind is British Columbia, with some of the strictest cloud legislation in the country.

The federal Government of Canada Cloud Adoption Strategy describes cloud computing as a “fundamental shift in the delivery of IT services” and that “adopting cloud computing will help the government of Canada maintain IT service excellent to emerging technologies”. Changes to the British Columbia Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) in October 2019 provided the opportunity for cloud solutions to align with the federal plan. Previously opposed to the use of cloud solutions, the changes in 2019 removed barriers to implementing cloud solutions in the province’s public sector.

Cloud First: Government of Canada

The government of Canada finalized their Cloud Adoption Strategy in line with cloud legislation in 2018. Although they had originally decided on a ‘Cloud Right’ strategy, they quickly pivoted to ‘Cloud First’. This change “recognizes that the cloud remains the preferred option for the ideal delivery” of IT services. Wherever the public cloud is not practical for a department, the government will implement a private cloud deployment model. It was determined that both options provide enough security to be confident in the data being stored there, from personal health data to secret information.

Parliament Buildings – Ottawa, Canada

The Government of Canada has strategized a comprehensive plan for rolling out cloud solutions to each sector. Every department will appoint a group of ‘cloud champions’. This team will help address the organizational changes brought on by moving to the cloud. Focus will be placed on providing professional development opportunities. This ensures that once the transition is completed, the workforce will have people in place to maintain the functionality and security of the cloud work environment.

Departments must understand the changing environment, undertake the necessary workforce planning, and invest in their workforce by providing their IT professionals with the necessary learning and developmental opportunities.

Government of Canada Cloud Adoption Strategy

The Cloud Adoption Strategy recognizes the importance of maintaining a high level of security for government information. They have a stringent plan in place to ensure they are compliant. However, after a full analysis of the risks involved with a cloud structure, it was determined that these risks were low compared to the vast benefits of a cloud environment.

Cloud Reluctant: Government of British Columbia

British Columbia is Regroove’s home turf and we’ve paid close attention to the provincial cloud legislation. Until recently, the B.C. government has been fundamentally opposed to the strategy outlined by the federal government. The B.C. Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) was structured to prevent the use of cloud solutions in the public sector – until Bill 35 passed Royal Assent on October 31, 2019. This bill provided extensive changes to roll back provisions that prevented the use of cloud solutions.

Cloud computing and data analytics are creating new opportunities that allow us to make better informed decisions. It also means that distinctions between IT and the business it supports dissolves. IT is no longer separate from the organization.

Office of the Chief Information Officer Strategy 2016

For Microsoft Office 365 clients – in the extremely unlikely event that data centres in Toronto and Quebec City were down – data is transferred to a centre in the United States for continued access. Before Bill 35, FIPPA prevented the transfer of data outside of Canada. This in turn barred the use of cloud solutions in the province.

Parliament Buildings – Victoria, British Columbia

Bill 35 adds the provision that disclosure is permitted outside of Canada if it is in relation to “data recovery that is being undertaken following a failure of an electronic system.” Disclosure of information is also acceptable in circumstances where “the individual is temporarily travelling outside of Canada” and for “installing, implementing, maintaining, repairing, troubleshooting, or upgrading an electronic system.”

While the updates to FIPPA in Bill 35 are open to interpretation (and we’re not lawyers), the loosening of previously restrictive cloud legislation is a promising step forward in the adoption of cloud solutions.

Implications of Cloud Legislation

With the recent changes to cloud legislation and strategy, it’s clear that federal and provincial governments – slowly but surely – are beginning the transition to the world of cloud computing. The implications for the public sector are obvious – big changes are coming. The question is no longer “if” the public sector will move to the cloud, but rather “when”.

For the private sector, subject to the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) in British Columbia, the restrictions of FIPPA were never an issue. However, there are still a number of takeaways from cloud legislation.

Your organization’s cloud solution roll out strategy should include your own risk assessment. The government of British Columbia has a number of excellent resources to review when planning your move to the cloud. Their Cloud Computing for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises guide helps you make an informed decision regarding your migration plan.

The federal government provides direction through their own Cloud Adoption Strategy. One part of the plan we love is the focus on “creating a cloud workforce”. An understanding that bringing in new talent while enhancing the skills of current IT professionals will determine the success of cloud solutions and their internal adoption. Departments will appoint a “cloud leader” who, accompanied by a team of champions, will collect and address “organizational challenges brought on by cloud”.

As part of this understanding, the Canadian government has begun the creation of “cloud centres of excellence”. Team members versed in cloud solutions and the challenges it brings to the way we work will champion change in their departments and organizations. Introduced in the private sector, the idea of cloud centres of excellence can be reproduced on a smaller scale. The technical implications of moving to the cloud are important. However, the long-term success of cloud depends on the talented people in your organization. Coaching, professional development, and the assistance of external consultants become a vital part of implementing, maintaining, and improving your cloud solution of choice.

As their adoption of cloud matures, departments and agencies are investing in cloud centres of excellence to create a hub for cloud talent. The adoption of cloud brings new challenges, and these centres of excellence can help tackle these challenges.

Government of Canada Cloud Adoption Strategy

Government cloud adoption strategies will continue to evolve as even the most reluctant of provinces fall in line with the overall federal plan. At all levels, governments are beginning to understand that cloud solutions can help improve processes, speed up operations, and promote collaboration. Whether these changes happen quickly or in years to come, we’re looking forward to witnessing these positive steps forward!

If your organization is considering a move to the cloud, the uncomfortable truth is that you’re already behind. However, there are more resources now than ever that exist to help you plan your migration and succeed (and thrive!) in a cloud environment.

Need some help planning your cloud solution?

Our goal is to help grow your business. As a Microsoft Partner for over 15 years, we help teams harness Microsoft Cloud Technologies to run a more effective business through projects and coaching. Let’s chat!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Canadian federal government cloud first?

Yes! The federal government’s Cloud Adoption Strategy outlines their cloud first implementation strategy. It describes the cloud as the “preferred option for the ideal delivery” of IT services. Where the public cloud is not practical for an organization (i.e. the secret stuff), the government will deploy a private cloud model to ensure all departments can benefit from cloud solutions.

Are the Canadian provincial governments cloud first?

Canada’s provinces are following suit with the federal government and moving towards cloud-friendly and cloud-first legislation. Each province is different, so be sure to check the legislation in your province to confirm whether cloud legislation approves use in the public sector. No province prohibits the use of cloud in the private sector.

Can the British Columbia provincial government use the cloud?

British Columbia is Regroove’s home turf, so we’ve paid close attention to the cloud legislation here. Until recently the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in BC prohibited the use of cloud in the public sector. However, changes that came in October 2019 removed those barriers. We’re not lawyers, but the loosening of previously restrictive cloud legislation is a promising step forward for BC.

How do we start our cloud migration?

There are lots of resources to help you plan your migration to the cloud. Coaching, professional development, and the assistance of external consultants become a vital part of implementing, maintaining, and improving your cloud solution of choice.
Regroove can help! Our team can assist with your move to the cloud, from the technical setup and data migration, to coaching and consulting that helps grow your business and your team. Looking to get started? Let’s chat!

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