Bill C-59 sets a perilous precedent against Canadians’ quasi-constitutional right to know

Gatineau, May 14, 2015 ‒ Suzanne Legault, Information Commissioner of Canada, tabled a special report in Parliament today pertaining to an investigation into a complaint against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for records in the Long-gun Registry.

“As Information Commissioner, it is incumbent upon me to inform Parliament of my findings in this matter because certain provisions of the Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 (Bill C-59)will, if adopted, deny the right of access of the complainant, deny the complainant’s recourse in court and render null and void any potential liability against the Crown,” said Legault.

The request at the basis of the complaint was made to the RCMP on March 27, 2012, before the coming into force of the Ending the Long-gun Registry Act. It requested access to the Firearms Registry database.

The requester filed a complaint with the Office of the Information Commissioner after receiving a response from the RCMP alleging that:

  1. That the information provided was incomplete (missing both columns and registrations);
  2. That the RCMP did not justify the incomplete response;
  3. That by destroying the responsive records, the RCMP obstructed his right of access, pursuant to section 67.1 of the Act.

“After a lengthy investigation, I concluded that the response from the RCMP did not disclose all the records in accordance with the Act,” said Legault. The Commissioner made recommendations to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honourable Steven Blaney on March 26, 2015, to process remaining information and disclose it to the requester. The Minister decided not to proceed with these recommendations.

Commissioner Legault added “I also concluded that the RCMP destroyed records related to the request with the knowledge that these records were subject to the right of access guaranteed by subsection 4(1) of the Act.” As a result, the Commissioner referred the matter to the Attorney General of Canada, on March 26, 2015, for possible obstruction of the right of access under the Access to Information Act. The Commissioner did not receive a response to the letter of referral.

The proposed changes in Bill C-59 amend the Ending the Long-gun Registry Act to oust the operation of the Access to Information Act, retroactive to October 25, 2011.

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The special report is available on the OIC website.

For more information:

Natalie Hall
Manager, Communications and Media Relations
Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada
Tel.: 819-994-1068
Email: Natalie.hall@ci-oic.gc.ca