Time extensions must be both valid and reasonable

Complaint: Transport Canada took time extensions totalling 540 days to respond to a request for records related to the development of a joint Canada–U.S. declaration on security and competitiveness.

Investigation: The OIC determined that the extension under paragraph 9(1)(a) was invalid, since Transport Canada had not met the requirements of the provision. The paragraph 9(1)(b) extension was unreasonable, due to Transport Canada’s not having initiated consultations on the records for almost a year, largely because of one sector’s reluctance to provide records it deemed to be sensitive.

Outcome: After initially proposing to respond to the request more than two months after the combined extensions had expired, Transport Canada committed to responding one month before that deadline, as the result of a formal recommendation from the Information Commissioner.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • To validly claim an extension under paragraph 9(1)(a), institutions must be able to demonstrate that the request involves a large volume of records or that searching for those records would unreasonably interfere with operations. Transport Canada was able to do neither.
  • For an extension under paragraph 9(1)(b) to be considered reasonable, institutions must promptly initiate the consultations for which the extension was taken.
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