Timely access requires institutions to begin work on requests promptly

Complaint: Three years after receiving them, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) had not responded to three requests for records related to the closure of Kingston Penitentiary and two other facilities. At that point, the institution asked the requester whether they still wanted the information.

Investigation: The OIC learned that instead of then working on the requests, CSC suggested four months later that the requester abandon them and submit new ones. CSC then took extensions of 100 and 120 days for two of the resubmitted requests and did not reply to the third.

Outcome: CSC committed to a date for disclosure, after several requests from the OIC to do so; however, the date was not reasonable. The requester received the information nearly four years after making the original requests.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • Timeliness is fundamental to the right of access. Receiving a response in a timely manner ensures information is still relevant and that the government can be held to account for its decisions at appropriate times.
  • In this case, much of the requested information was publicly available or outdated by the time it was released.
  • CSC officials were negligent in their legislated duty to provide timely access and showed a flagrant disregard for the requester’s rights.
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