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Information Commissioner files a notice of application against the Prime Minister of Canada

Information Commissioner files a notice of application against the Prime Minister of Canada

On September 11, 2015, the Information Commissioner of Canada filed a notice of application against the Prime Minister of Canada pursuant to section 42 of the Access to Information Act (Information Commissioner of Canada v. The Prime Minister of Canada, T-1535-15). This court case is in relation to an access to information request for “any records created between March 26, 2013 to present (August 22, 2013) related to Senators Mike Duffy, Mac Harb, Patrick Brazeau and/or Pamela Wallin.”

The case was commenced following an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s office concerning PCO’s refusal to disclose records responsive to the access to information request. As a result of this investigation, the Commissioner concluded that PCO was not justified when refusing access to information responsive to the request and recommended that the Prime Minister disclose a significant amount of additional information. The Privy Council Office, on behalf of the Prime Minister, declined to implement the recommendation.

The court case challenges the Prime Minister’s decision, as head of PCO, to refuse records responsive to the access to information request based on claimed exemptions for “personal information” (s.19(1)), “advice and recommendations” (s.21(1)(a)) and “solicitor-client privilege” (s.23).

In the proceeding, the Commissioner maintains that the Prime Minister erred in relying on these exemptions when refusing access to the requested information. The Commissioner also maintains that where there was discretion to either disclose or withhold information, the Prime Minister failed to demonstrate that this discretion was exercised in a reasonable manner bearing in mind all relevant factors including the public interest in the information’s disclosure. 

This notice of application was filed prior to the 45-day statutory deadline set out in the Access to Information Act.