Institutions must ask the right parties for consent to release information

Complaint: Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) refused to release the report of a forensic audit of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, claiming the document was confidential third-party information (as per paragraph 20(1)(b)).

Investigation: The OIC learned that INAC had sought the consent of the firm that had prepared the report, not the subject of the report, the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation.

Outcome: The Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation did not object to the report’s being disclosed. INAC released the majority of the report.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • Under the Access to Information Act, an institution may release information when the individual or party to whom the information relates or belongs consents to its disclosure. (See, for example, paragraph 19(2)(a) for personal information or subsection 20(5) for third-party information.)
  • Institutions must take care to consult the proper parties, however. In this case, INAC should have sought the consent of the subject of the report not the firm that authored it.
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