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Louisa Garib, Legal Counsel, at the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada, and Sessional Instructor in the Department of Law and Legal Studies at Carleton University completed both her LLB and LLM (with concentration in Law and Technology) at University of Ottawa.
While at uOttawa, she participated in the Jessup International Law Moot and the American Bar Association’s Negotiations Competition; was a Research Assistant for Prof Jane Bailey and CIPPIC; was a student member of On the Identity Trail (Anonymity Project); and was an Executive Member of the Information and Technology Law Students Society (ITLS). She also interned at the Electronic Privacy Centre (EPIC) in Washington DC.
Could you tell us about your current job?
I joined the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada (OIC) in 2013. The OIC investigates complaints about federal institutions’ handling of access requests under the federal Access to Information Act.
At the OIC, my work is a mix of legal advocacy and advisory work. I represent the Commissioner in court on everything from a Reference before the Federal Court, third party review cases and even small claims court files. Most of my day-to-day work involves providing legal advice on investigations, and legislative and administrative matters.
Before joining the OIC, I worked as a Policy Analyst and then Legal Counsel at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, for five years.
What do you like about your current position?
I really like the variety of legal work at the OIC and the range of subject matter that can come across my desk any given day. Litigation is always fun, and being involved in obtaining a tangible result for a requestor – the release of records – is satisfying work, whether through the courts or via an investigation.
I also feel like I am contributing, in some way, to the greater good. Access to information is a pillar of a free and democratic society. Without it, the citizenry are in the dark.
What are the challenges?
The fact that the Access to Information Act has not substantively changed since it came into effect in 1983 is a huge challenge. Limited resources is another.
What did you study at University of Ottawa Law & Technology?
Privacy Law, Cyberfeminism, a CIPPIC Internship, Technoprudence and Technopolicy. It is with great regret that I never got to take the January “TechnoRico” course in Puerto Rico.
Why did you choose to study Law & Technology at University of Ottawa?
Initially, I had no intention of attending uOttawa for Law School. I knew little about uOttawa and even less about law and technology. But I decided to attend an Open House anyway, largely as an excuse to visit Ottawa. When I drove in that morning it was a cold and dreary spring day. The campus was encased in a layer of frozen rain. Everything was grey and treacherously icy. Things were not looking promising.
I had registered to sit in on a lecture on something very serious like evidence or constitutional law, to get a sense of what law school would be like. I never made it to the lecture. On the way there I heard music playing. It was decidedly un-law school like music — Prince, if I recall correctly. It was coming from another classroom. I looked in and saw a smiling, friendly, energetic guy standing at the front of the class, encouraging people to come in. So I did. And then the guy started telling a story – a fascinating, complicated fact pattern – about computers, email with dubious attachments, culminating with a knock on the door from the RCMP. At this point the guy turned to the audience and asked: “What would you do? What would you do if the story was about you?”
And that was it. I was hooked. “The guy” was Professor Ian Kerr. He doesn’t know this but Ian is almost single-handedly responsible for me choosing to study law at uOttawa. It turned out to be the best decision for me, both personally and professionally. I wouldn’t change a thing.
How did your studies in Law & Technology at University of Ottawa help you get to where you are now?
My studies in Law and Technology gave me a foundation and a certain perspective in terms of how to address policy and legal questions in practice: What constitutes personal information? What does it mean for a record to be “computerized” under access legislation? How can technology be used to achieve statutory objectives and resolve complaints? What legal issues arise from the sea of information engulfing us? I got the opportunity to study, think and talk about these kinds of questions at uOttawa.
Do you have any advice for the current students at University of Ottawa and the Centre for Law, Technology and Society? Those considering Law & Technology at University of Ottawa?
Follow your interests and have an open mind. You never know what opportunities might come up and how law and technology will develop. Get as much practical experience as you can, particularly if you are interested in practicing law. Try and enjoy your time in law school. It can be a really stressful period in your life, but it’s also an exciting one. I was fortunate enough to have met and be challenged by some really smart, interesting classmates and learn from inspiring professors who taught outside of the box. They have influenced my thinking and approach to the law and teaching.
Interview: March 2015