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Who we are and what we do
The Information Commissioner is an Agent of Parliament appointed under the Access to Information Act, Canada’s freedom of information legislation. The Commissioner reviews the complaints of individuals and organizations who believe that federal institutions have not respected their rights under the Act. As an ombudsperson, the Commissioner also promotes access to information in Canada.
Canada’s current Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault, began her seven-year term on June 30, 2010, after serving one year as Interim Commissioner. Prior to this, she was Assistant Commissioner, Policy, Communications and Operations. Earlier in her career, Ms. Legault was Deputy Commissioner, Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs, at the Competition Bureau, Legal Counsel with the Department of Justice Canada, as well as a criminal lawyer in private practice and a Crown prosecutor.
The Commissioner is supported in her work by the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC), an independent public body set up in 1983 under the Access to Information Act to respond to complaints from the public about access to government information.
Our mission is to conduct efficient, fair and confidential investigations into complaints about federal institutions’ handling of access to information requests. We use mediation and persuasion to resolve them. We bring cases to the Federal Court of Canada when they involve important principles of law or legal interpretation.
We encourage federal institutions to disclose information as a matter of course and to respect Canadians’ rights to request and receive information, in the name of transparency and accountability.
We actively make the case for greater freedom of information in Canada through targeted initiatives such as Right to Know Week, and ongoing dialogue with Canadians, Parliament and federal institutions.
The OIC is funded through annual appropriations from Parliament. As a small organization, it has limited financial flexibility, 75 percent of its $12 million budget being allocated to salaries. As of April 2011, the OIC counts a workforce of 106 full-time equivalents, including 98 indeterminate employees.
The organizational structure of the OIC is shown in the diagram below.
The Complaints Resolution and Compliance Branch investigates individual complaints about the processing of access requests, conducts dispute resolution activities and makes formal recommendations to institutions, as required. It also assesses federal institutions’ compliance with their obligations and carries out systemic investigations and analysis.
Legal Services represents the Commissioner in court and provides legal advice on investigations, legislative issues and administrative matters. It closely monitors the range of cases having potential litigation ramifications for the OIC and access to information in general. It also assists investigators by providing them with up-to-date and customized reference tools on the evolving technicalities of the case law.
Corporate Services provides strategic and corporate leadership in human resources and financial management, internal audit as well as information management and technology. It provides policy direction and conducts the OIC’s external relations with a wide range of stakeholders, notably Parliament, government and representatives of the media. It is also responsible for managing the OIC’s access to information and privacy function.
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