The Information Commissioner of Canada gives notice under subsection 30(5) of the Access to Information Act that she has ceased to investigate seventeen complaints, pursuant to paragraphs 30(4)(a) and (b).
The Commissioner’s decision to cease to investigate these complainants is based on her finding that they are both vexatious and that further investigation is unnecessary having regard to all the circumstances.
The complainant alleged that the lengths of the time extensions taken by the institution on the seventeen requests were unreasonable. Upon initiation of the investigations into these complaints, it became apparent that the seventeen requests sought the same information as a previous request made by the requester, but broken down into smaller segments.
The previous request had been the subject of a complaint in which the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) had concluded that the length of the time extension taken by the institution was reasonable. The complainant did not apply to the Federal Court for a review of the subject matter of the complaint under subsection 41(1) of the Act.
The complainant alleged that the new requests were necessary in order to hold the institution to its commitment to provide regular interim responses on the original request. However, the institution provided evidence that it was in fact providing regular interim responses as per its commitment. In addition, the complainant made a comment during the investigation of the original complaint that if the OIC did not find in favour of the complainant, they would simply file new requests for the same information, in smaller and smaller increments.
In the circumstances, it can readily be inferred that the second series of complaints are directed towards circumventing the findings of the OIC’s previous investigation, while avoiding the recourse mechanism available to the complainant envisioned by the Act.
When a complainant does not agree with the result of an OIC investigation, the proper recourse is to apply to the Federal Court, under subsection 41(1) of the Act, for a review of the matter that is the subject of the complaint. The deadline to apply for that review is 35 business days after the date of the Final Report.
The Commissioner concluded that the complaints are vexatious and that it is unnecessary to continue to investigate these because they are substantively duplicative of the first complaint that was already investigated by the OIC.