Institutions must disclose information that can be reasonably severed

Complaint: Citing section 19, Fisheries and Oceans Canada withheld all requested information about Bay of Fundy scallop licences that had been reinstated.

Investigation: The OIC learned that the requester was not seeking personal information, but rather the reasoning and the criteria for reinstating the licences. In particular, he sought four letters from former ministers of Fisheries to specific individuals whose licences had been reinstated when his was not.

Outcome: The institution released some information in the course of the investigation. It then disclosed the four letters, with the exception of some personal information, such as home addresses, in response to a recommendation from the Information Commissioner.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • Under section 25, institutions must disclose portions of exempted records that may be reasonably severed. Not doing so is contrary to the duty to assist.
  • In this case, by erring on the side of caution and exempting the records in their entirely, Fisheries and Oceans Canada denied the requester information to which he was entitled.
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