Claiming section 20 requires evidence that commercial harm could occur

Complaint: The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada claimed section 20 to withhold 100 of 106 pages of a study about the communications habits of new Canadians and urban Indigenous people.

Investigation: The institution withheld the information based on the view of the firm that prepared the study that the exempted information was proprietary and releasing it would harm its commercial interests. However, the institution could not substantiate the expected harm.

Outcome: The institution agreed to ask the third party to reconsider its position and, subsequently, released additional information.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • Institutions withholding information under a claim of commercial harm must demonstrate that disclosure could genuinely harm the third party’s interests.
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