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Systemic complaint received by the Commissioner

A second systemic approach to investigating an alleged problem of delay commenced in this reporting year when the Canadian Newspaper Association (CNA) made a complaint against all government institutions (later reduced to 21 institutions). The complaint alleged that there is a secret system in government for the handling of access requests from members of the media. Moreover, the CNA alleged that this secret system has the effect of delaying media requests. The CNA based its complaint on previously published research which showed that, in some federal government institutions, it takes longer to respond to requests from members of the media than to requests from others.

This latter type of systemic complaint is being investigated through a combination of standardized data collection through questionnaire responses, and on-site verification and interviews. The investigation will assess whether or not media requests appear to be receiving discriminatory treatment; if so, in what departments and to what extent.

As well, the investigation will inquire into whether responsible central agencies (Treasury Board Secretariat, Privy Council Office, and Justice Canada) were aware of concerns about discriminatory treatment of media requests and, if so, what action was taken in response. The results of this systemic investigation of the CNA complaint will be reported in next year’s report.

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