Tuesday, 22 January 2013

OSAP (In)security...Students As Second Class Citizens?

Earlier this week I was given the notification that my name was included on a list of around 500,000 individuals who signed up for a loan from OSAP between the years of 2000 to 2006. I was given a telephone number to call and then asked to present my SIN number along with other information to verify that I was who I was.

An interesting feeling darted through my body at that moment, maybe it was the fact that my information is now potentially in the hands of someone other than the government agency entrusted to keep it, or maybe it was the kind of feeling you get when your credit card company tells you that your account has a credit on it...you know that feeling, content and relieved that you do not owe anything further, but ultimately stagnant as you know your credit will not accrue any interest.

This feeling however, as awkward as it may have presented itself to me, suddenly changed when the young lady on the other end of the line confirmed that my information was on a portable hard drive that was lost sometime in November and then reported officially lost sometime in December. Only then to be officially officially reported to the public in January. Yup, quite the efficient and most effective service one should expect from a government agency entrusted with sensitive information that requires the utmost of confidentiality.

I will tell you a little story, I was given the honor of working on behalf of Statistics Canada a few years ago in order to complete Census related material. Upon being given the conditions of my contract, I was also required to sign a document and say an oath of confidentiality and integrity regarding the material I would be dealing with. If I was to lose something in error or sell any information/leak it to the public, I could face time in prison with a $1000.00 fine. What does the director of the agency state regarding this loss of information? He is deeply disappointed in his staff for causing such an error...deeply disappointed.

I mean, there are a lot of young students currently who are either underemployed or straight out unemployed and we have a government agency, who most likely compensates its employees nicely, lose information and apparently nothing is going to happen to those involved? I will tell you one thing with certainty, if I was in charge of ensuring this documentations confidentiality and was being paid what most of these individuals are getting, that information would be nowhere near lost and in the event that it did occur, I would most likely resign out of sense of embarrassment for my unprofessionalism.

This topic raises a number of questions that I believe people need to start asking themselves. Telling from experience, if I am late on a payment or am unable to provide the sufficient documentation to the student loans collection agency, a letter is written and documented on my credit score. Furthermore, many of us students, who are now searching for a meaning in life after school and who are entrusted with the responsibility to not only lead our society, but fix the messes it contains, have become second class citizens in the eyes of the government.

We are encouraged to attend schooling in order to further ourselves and then enter a market suffering from a lack of employment and instantly become a number in the system owing a debt. Not to mention, this number that represents us is being poorly managed if this incident is any sign.

I for one do not want something like this to happen and believe that if you are privileged enough to be serving on behalf of the government of Canada and for the people of Canada, you should take the extra measures required to make sure your job is being done to the best of it's abilities.

I urge all others involved in this recent mess to accept the letter arriving in your mailbox shortly and to follow the steps on it in order to file a complaint against OSAP, its subsidiaries and any other individuals involved in the loss of this crucial information.

Furthermore, I urge you to contact your local MPP and file a complaint with them in order for the possibility of an investigation to occur into this matter more. I understand that human error is inevitable within our society, but this case seems more to me than just simple human error.

Watch your bank accounts, monitor your mail and continue to demand better from our government!

I would also appreciate any feedback you have on this matter or information you would like to contribute. As always, your input is important and your questions essential to creating a better country for everyone. 

Until Next Time!

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