Challenging year for access to information: The Information Commissioner’s 2014−2015 annual report

Gatineau, December 8, 2015—Suzanne Legault, the Information Commissioner of Canada saw a year of significant advances in access in 2014-2015 but, equally, of significant regressions. Commissioner Legault tabled her most recent annual report in Parliament today with details of this challenging year for access to information.

The report highlights two important decisions rendered by the courts that provided much-needed clarification on the application the Access to Information Act. These decisions have settled longstanding issues with the way fees and time extensions are applied.

The report also provides details of the most extraordinary regression of access to information rights since the adoption of the Act – the Long-gun Registry case.

With the passage of Bill C-59, the Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No.1 last June, retroactive amendments to the Ending the Long-gun Registry Act erased the requester’s access to information right in this case and all potential administrative, civil or criminal liability of anyone involved with the destruction of records. “This case is no longer about the long-gun registry,” said the Commissioner, “It is about Canadians’ quasi-constitutional right of access, the rule of law and respect for our rights and freedoms as protected by the Charter.” The Commissioner is challenging these amendments before the Superior Court of Ontario.

The report also contains a number of important investigations and legal cases over the year. One such example relates to an investigation into a request for records of senators’ expenses. This case highlights the accountability gap that currently exists by the fact that ministers’ offices are not institutions subject to the Act.

The report also points to disturbing trends developing around Cabinet confidences including an increase in the use of the exclusion to withhold information and requesters self-censoring their request to avoid lengthy delays.

Throughout the report, the Commissioner emphasizes ways to modernize the Act to ensure government transparency and accountability.

“Canadians’ information rights urgently need a renewed commitment for transparency and concrete steps to affect a fundamental shift in the culture of the federal government. I look forward to assisting Parliament in a future review of the Access to Information Act” said Ms. Legault.

The report is available on the OIC website.

For more information:

Natalie Hall
Manager, Communications and Media Relations
Office of the Information Commissioner
Tel.: 819-994-1068