Fees shown to be “neutral information” not subject to solicitor-client privilege

Complaint: The Canadian Wheat Board refused to release the legal fees associated with the termination of an employee, on the grounds that they were protected by solicitor-client privilege.

Investigation: The OIC determined that section 23 did not apply to all the withheld information. Legal fees are “neutral information,” no longer protected by solicitor-client privilege, when it can be shown that privileged information could not be deduced from disclosing them.

Outcome: The institution released the aggregate fees.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • Disclosure of the aggregate fees would not reveal privileged communications in this case.
  • When aggregate fees constitute “neutral information” they are not privileged.
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