By Caroline Blivet

Public Cloud and Canadian Data Residency: What Has Changed for BC Public Sector?

November 04, 2019

Cloud technology is rapidly transforming IT departments and also how whole organizations operate, communicate and do business. This is an exciting move towards digital transformation and all the benefits tied to it regarding innovation, agility, scalability and cost reduction.


According to IDC, cloud IT infrastructure is expected to grow over the next few years and the public cloud should account for 66.2% of the total IT infrastructure spend by 2023.



Source: IDC 2019


This major shift will impact all parts of the Canadian economy and the Government of Canada has already identified the public cloud as a top priority in its 2018 "cloud-first" strategy stating that "it is the preferred option for delivering IT services".

However, Canada does not have national consistent data residency laws and a couple of provinces such as British Columbia dictate that government data should reside in Canada.

That is the reason why BC public sector has not jumped on the cloud bandwagon yet.

However, changes to the BC FOIPPA (Freedom of Information and Protection Privacy Act) legislation last month may, at last, unlock the power of the cloud for BC public sector bodies in a meaningful way. 

Before we talk about the changes, let's quickly walk the path that brought us here.


  • 2004: BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA)becomes law, including the provision that "a public body must ensure that personal information … is stored only in Canada and accessed only in Canada …." [link to the act on the leg site]
  • 2008: Gartner begins to discuss the rise of cloud computing
  • 2010: Microsoft launches its Azure cloud platform
  • 2012: BC's OIPC published the guide to cloud computing - Public bodies in BC must consider FIPPA when making choices about whether to use cloud computing. 
  • 2015: Microsoft announces Canadian datacenters 
  • 2016: BC School Districts begin using Office 365, as well as Google Apps for Education, asking parents for informed consent per the FOIPPA language 
  • 2017: BC OCIO (Office of the Chief Information Officer) letter to the public sector highlighting some technical routing challenges within Office 365 and promote caution. 
  • 2018: Microsoft and BC OCIO address the technical issues; BC OCIO letter to the public sector includes the guidance that "The use of Office 365, Exchange Online and SharePoint online is possible where there is personally identifiable data.
  • 2019: New challenges arise related to Microsoft services; Microsoft's Online Services Terms (OST) state that "Customer Data … maybe be stored and processed in, the United States" for the successful execution of Microsoft services such as spell checker or PowerPoint design guidance. 
  • October 31, 2019: Bill 35 receives royal assent, including language allowing for out-of-Canada execution of microservices. Specifically, the bill seeks to "facilitate the use of … temporary processing and storage of information outside of Canada, notably through the use of cloud-based services. More information here.

It would seem that the last hurdle to the adoption of cloud services by the BC public sector has been tackled. Time will tell if the wait is over and if BC public sector can take advantage of cloud services at last. 

In the meantime, you might want to better understand how the cloud can help you meet your financial and operational needs as well as help you with hot topics such as cybersecurity, data protection, and innovation.

Softlanding offers Microsoft-funded Azure/Office 365 Assessments for BC public sector customers to help you understand your cloud readiness level and help you develop a case for migration, determine if your applications are ready for the cloud as well as provide a budget and timeline.

Contact us for more information.

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