Commissioner may self-initiate complaint in cases of extreme delay

Complaint: The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) missed the date it had negotiated with the OIC as part of a complaint investigation to respond to a request for records related to a company’s income tax audit.

Investigation: The Information Commissioner initiated a new complaint when CRA asked for more time to process the records, considering it a full refusal of access on the institution’s part. The OIC soon discovered that the number of pages involved had almost doubled to roughly 10,000. To expedite the process, the investigator reviewed the records and analyzed the exemptions and exclusions at the same time as CRA staff.

Outcome: CRA did a partial release three months later and provided its final response to the requester the subsequent month.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • The decision to investigate this matter as a full refusal complaint, given CRA’s failure to meet its commitment date, cannot be replicated in every case. However, it is one option available to the Information Commissioner in cases of extraordinary delay.
  • In this case, investigating a second complaint ensured that CRA finished processing the request as a priority, since the response was already long overdue.
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