Ministerial staff have no authority to make decisions under the Act

Complaint: Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) may have interfered with the processing of a journalist’s request for information.

Investigation: The OIC learned that access officials had decided to disclose an entire report but retrieved it from the mailroom following instructions from a member of the Minister’s staff to “unrelease” it and only disclose one section.

Outcome: The journalist received the entire report several months later, after making two more requests. The Information Commissioner issued a special report to Parliament on the matter.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • Ministerial staff members have no authority to make any decision under the Access to Information Act or give any direction to institutional officials.
  • There are serious consequences for the rights of requesters when political staff members overstep their mandate and compromise a process that was designed to be objective and non-partisan.
  • Public officials must exercise their duty to say “no” to requests from those who have no legal authority to make them.
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