Confirm information is publicly available before declining to disclose it

Complaint: Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) declined to release a map, claiming it was publicly available and therefore excluded from the coverage of the Act, as per section 68.

Investigation: The OIC learned that NRCan told the requester the map was available from the National Energy Board and did not respond to multiple queries for details about the map so the requester could get it from that institution. At no point in dealing with the requester did NRCan verify that the map was indeed publicly available through the National Energy Board. It was only when the National Energy Board contacted NRCan, as part of attempts to find the map, that NRCan realized only it had a copy of it.

OutcomeNRCan sent the requester a copy of the map.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • The institution’s response to the requester was a failure to meet the duty to assist, which resulted in unnecessary delays and obstructed the requester’s right of access.
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