Public interest mechanism in Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act prevails

Complaint: The Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (PSIC) refused to release, under subsection 19(1), the names of the recipient and the subject of a report concerning allegations of wrongdoing at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC).

Investigation: The OIC found that the identity of the report’s recipient, HRSDC’s chief executive officer, should be disclosed, since receiving such a report was part of his role as a government employee (the exception to subsection 19(1) found at paragraph 3(j) of the Privacy Act). However, the OIC agreed that the name of the report subject could not be released in the public interest under another provision of the Privacy Act, paragraph 8(2)(m).

Outcome: PSIC released the identity of the chief executive officer but not the subject of the report.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • Paragraph 8(2)(m) allows institutions to disclose personal information when the public interest in doing so outweighs any invasion of privacy, subject to any other Act of Parliament.
  • Under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, the identity of report subjects may only be disclosed in accordance with that Act. As result, paragraph 8(2)(m) does not apply.
  • The only public interest mechanism that would allow PSIC to identify report subjects is found in the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.
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