Institutions must seek consent whenever reasonable to do so

Complaint: The Privy Council Office (PCO) refused to disclose correspondence between the Prime Minister and the mayors of Montréal and Quebec City, claiming that 12 pages of records were personal information (as per section 19).

Investigation: The OIC learned that PCO had not consulted with the mayors prior to deciding to withhold the records. During the investigation, PCO consulted with the municipalities, which later provided consent to disclose the information.

Outcome: The majority of the correspondence was disclosed.

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 seek this consent when it is reasonable to do so, and should then disclose the information whenever the individual consents, barring exceptional circumstances.
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