Institutions, not requesters, must consider public interest in disclosure

Complaint: Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) refused to use its discretion to release in the public interest any record that listed a particular individual’s Canadian citizenship status.

Investigation: The OIC learned that CIC had informed the requester that he had not shown that the public interest in disclosing the personal information outweighed any resulting invasion of privacy. CIC also refused to act without the approval of the deputy minister, who had the delegated authority to decide to release information in the public interest.

Outcome: The OIC agreed that the deputy minister, upon reviewing the matter in response to the OIC’s intervention, correctly considered the relevant factors and weighed the competing interests when declining to make a public interest disclosure.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • As established in Dagg v. Canada (Minister of Finance) 1997 2 S.C.R. 403, para.16, the onus is on institutions not requesters to consider the public interest.
  • The Commissioner’s role is not to exercise discretion on behalf of institutions, but to enquire into the reasonableness of institutions’ decisions, taking into account all relevant factors. In this case, CIC applied the invasion-of-privacy test and demonstrated that it had properly exercised its discretion.
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