Pursuant to section 39 of the Access to Information Act, the Information Commissioner is reporting her findings in relation to her self-initiated investigation into the processing of eight access to information or consultation requests received by Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) between July 22, 2008, and January 19, 2010. This investigation concerned the possibility of interference in the processing of these requests.Footnote 1

The attached Report of Facts and Findings (Appendix A) serves as the Commissioner’s findings of fact in this investigation. Appendix A also contains detailed summaries of the activities surrounding the five requests that form the basis of this report.

Background

On April 1, 2010, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics undertook a study of allegations of systemic political interference with access to information requests. In April and May 2010, the Committee summoned a number of witnesses from various federal departments in order to study these allegations.Footnote 2

On May 13, 2010, the Committee approved a motion that ordered PWGSC to provide the Committee with all email correspondence from July 2008 to January 19, 2010, between Mr. Sébastien Togneri, then Director of Parliamentary Affairs in the office of Minister Christian Paradis, and officials in the PWGSC Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Directorate, including the ATIP Director.Footnote 3 The motion also requested all email correspondence between Mr. Togneri and his then colleague, Ms. Jillian Andrews, and between Mr. Togneri and Ms. Isabelle Bouchard, then a member of the Prime Minister’s Office staff.

In September 2010, then PWGSC Minister, the Honourable Rona Ambrose, provided the Clerk of the Committee with some of the requested correspondence. To the Commissioner’s knowledge, records of correspondence between members of her predecessor’s staff, as well as between ministerial staff and a member of staff in the Prime Minister’s Office were not provided to the Committee.

On October 1, 2010, Minister Ambrose provided the same correspondence to the Information Commissioner. Upon review of the correspondence, the Commissioner was satisfied that, pursuant to subsection 30(3) of the Act, reasonable grounds existed to investigate whether there had been interference in the processing and responses to requests or in the requesting or obtaining of records during the period of July 22, 2008, and January 19, 2010.Footnote 4

On October 8, 2010, the Commissioner initiated a complaint against PWGSC and issued a Summary of Complaint to the department wherein she identified eight requests that she intended to investigate. The Commissioner subsequently sent two amended summaries to PWGSC, which included an additional seven requests to be investigated. In total, 15 files were examined by the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC).

Footnotes

Footnote 1

For the purposes of this report, the term “request” or “requests” includes both access to information and consultation requests.

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Footnote 2

This study was initiated during the Commissioner's investigation of another instance in which political interference was alleged (OIC file 3209-00718). The Commissioner reported the results of that investigation in March 2011 in a special report to Parliament.

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Footnote 3

Motion text: That the committee orders the Department of Public Works and Government Services Canada to provide it with all email correspondence from July 2008 to January 19, 2010 between Sébastien Togneri and officials who work or worked within the Access to Information Branch of Public Works and Government Services Canada. The committee also orders all email correspondence from July 2008 to January 19, 2010 between Sébastien Togneri and Tom Makichuk, all email correspondence from July 2008 to January 19, 2010 between Sébastien Togneri and Jillian Andrews, and all email correspondence from July 2008 to January 19, 2010 between Sébastien Togneri and Isabelle Bouchard. And requests that said material be delivered to the committee within 5 days.

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Footnote 4

The scope of “political interference” is discussed in the Commissioner's previous special report on interference.

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