A thorough search means looking for and examining all known records
Complaint: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said it had no records that had been generated in response to an incident, including pages from the notebooks of four named officers.
Investigation: The OIC learned that access officials had not asked the four officers to provide their notebooks. It is standard RCMP practice for officers to keep these at home and to retain them both when they are full and upon retirement. This is despite an internal operations manual statement that the notebooks are the property of the RCMP and subject to the Act.
The RCMP subsequently found one of the officers, who had no responsive records. It later consulted a second officer, who was located at the RCMP, but under another name. When the RCMP refused to track down the two remaining officers, who had retired, the OIC did so.
Outcome: As a result of this thorough search, additional records from the officers’ notebooks were released.
Information Commissioner’s position
- To qualify as thorough, a search must extend to all individuals and offices belonging to the institution that may have records responsive to a request.
- In addition, institutions may not claim that no records exist without retrieving and reviewing all records they are aware of that may fall within the scope of a request.