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Desjardins data breach

OTTAWA – MPs on the House of Commons Public Safety and National Security are back in Ottawa today for an emergency summer meeting to decide whether or not to study the breach of millions of Canadians’ personal information at Quebec-based credit union Desjardins.

In June, the major financial institution revealed that a since-fired employee had improperly accessed and shared the personal information of 2.7 million Canadians and 173,000 businesses. The leaked information included the names, addresses, birth dates, social insurance numbers, email addresses, and transaction habits of Desjardins clients.

On the joint request of opposition members, the Commons committee is convening on Parliament Hill on Monday at 1 p.m. to discuss the breach and possible remedies, including issuing new Social Insurance Numbers (SIN) for all impacted clients.

“Quebecers, and all Canadians, affected by the theft of their personal data and information are anxious and need solutions. We must act quickly to help them and ensure this unacceptable situation never occurs again,” Conservative public safety critic and committee member Pierre Paul-Hus said in a statement last week.

Liberal MP Francis Drouin, who was one of the clients who had his personal information leaked as part of this incident, is in Ottawa today to take part in the meeting.

In an interview on CTV News Channel, Drouin said that while he is supportive of the breach being studied by the committee, he doesn’t want it to “compromise” the police investigation underway.

“It will require patience from me and from the 2.7 million customers out there, but I think it’s important that they gather evidence and that we charge this person and they be criminally charged,” he said.

In a letter requesting the special meeting the Conservatives say that should a study be launched, they’d want to hear from representatives from the bank, the RCMP, Public Safety Canada, the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, and other policy experts.

Monday’s meeting begins behind closed doors but is scheduled to last for five hours so it is possible that public hearings with witnesses could begin this afternoon.

Since the breach became public, both the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and his Quebec counterpart have launched a collaborative investigation into whether Desjardins acted in compliance with the relevant privacy protection laws.

Desjardins is now offering its clients free identity theft insurance and other financial and legal assistance for those who may have their identities stolen as a result of this breach. On Monday chief executive Guy Cormier announced that Desjardins will offer permanent data protection to all its members. Affected clients have launched class-action lawsuits.

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