Duty to assist requires willingness to keep searching for missing records

Complaint: Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) provided an incomplete response to a request for information about the Food Mail Program. AANDC then instructed the requester, who had identified specific missing documents, to submit a new request.

Investigation: Despite the OIC’s showing AANDC access officials the complainant’s detailed list of records, they refused to search for them. A subsequent formal letter produced no results.

Outcome: In the end, the complainant received the additional documents in response to the second request.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • AANDC’s refusal to retrieve all responsive records, even in the face of evidence of their existence, as well as its insistence that the requester make a second request, was a complete failure to meet the duty to assist.
  • The additional documents released turned out to be responsive to the first request. The requester should not have been forced to make a second request to receive them.
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