Appendix A: 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.

On May 13, 2010, the Committee approved a motion that ordered Public Works and Government Services Canada (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 Minister’s Office, and officials in the PWGSC Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Directorate, including the ATIP Director.Footnote 1 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, PWGSC Minister, the Honourable Rona Ambrose, responded to the Committee motion and provided the Clerk of the Committee with the requested correspondence between members of her predecessor’s staff and departmental officials. To the Commissioner’s knowledge, the requested records of correspondence between members of the then PWGSC Minister’s staff and of the Prime Minister’s Office staff were not provided to the Committee.

On October 1, 2010, then PWGSC Minister Rona Ambrose, on behalf of former Minister Paradis, provided the same correspondence to the Information Commissioner that she gave the Committee. Upon review, the Commissioner was satisfied that reasonable grounds existed, pursuant to subsection 30(3) of the Access to Information Act (the Act),to investigate whether there was interference in the processing and responses to access to information and consultation requests or in the requesting or obtaining of records during the period of July 22, 2008, and January 19, 2010.

On October 8, 2010, the Commissioner initiated a complaint against PWGSC and issued a Summary of Complaint to the department wherein she identified eight access and consultation requests that she would investigate.Footnote 2 She subsequently sent two amended summaries to PWGSC, which included an additional seven requests to be investigated. In total, 15 requests were examined by the Commissioner.

Footnotes

Footnote 1

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 2

For the purposes of this report, the term “request” or “requests” includes both access requests received by PWGSC and consultation requests from other government institutions.

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