2008-2009 Maximizing compliance

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In a context of limited resources, maximizing compliance is sometimes best achieved through the use of a variety of tools that are interdependent and that also complement investigations and systemic actions. General application tools involve ongoing proactive efforts, directed at a broad range of stakeholders, to promote requesters’ rights and develop partnerships. The aim is clearly to prevent non-compliance and to facilitate compliance. In contrast, specific application tools are directed toward individual parties in specific circumstances that result in or could lead to non-compliance.

To promote compliance, it is important that officials who are involved in the access to information process understand the basic principles and requirements of the legislation and related policies. They must also be aware of citizens’ expectations regarding what government information should be available to them and how it should be disseminated in an increasingly sophisticated electronic environment. It is equally important that requesters be aware of and understand their rights and how to exercise them. Collaboration with important stakeholders at all levels is key for achieving these objectives. The Information Commissioner is the critical link between all players and can promote compliance through information and strategic partnerships.

In cases of potential or alleged situations of non-compliance, conducting investigations into matters affecting access rights often reaps the benefit of encouraging parties to comply without resorting to more drastic actions. Mediation and negotiation generally produce mutually satisfactory results that are less costly and less time-consuming than adversarial measures. However, it is important to note that means of suasion and resolution are balanced with the full range of adversarial tools at the disposal of the Commissioner in cases where vigorous enforcement is necessary to ensure compliance with the legislation.

The table below shows how our activities work together to achieve the greatest impact to maximize compliance.

Compliance continuum

Compliance through information and partnerships Facilitating compliance Responses to non-compliance

Annual and special reports to Parliament

Advice and representations to Parliament

News releases and media interviews

Speeches, presentations, information sessions and seminars

Input and representations to Central Agencies (e.g. the Treasury Board Secretariat)

Participation at access to information community events

Liaison with federal, provincial, territorial and international information and privacy commissioners

Liaison with national and international freedom of information communities and civil society groups

International parliamentary assistance

Website, blogs and podcasts

Right to Know Week

Review of complaints to identify systemic issues

Systemic investigations (proactive)

Report cards

Review of extension notices

Consultations with access to information stakeholders, including institutions and users

Compliance programs

Case summaries and Commissioner’s findings

Reference guides, information notices and best practices

Investigation guidelines (GRIDS)


Suasion and resolution Adversarial
Investigations and systemic investigations (reactive)

Early resolution

Well-founded complaints accepted

Commissioner-initiated complaints

Mediation and negotiation

Informal representations to senior officials

Commissioner’s interpretations of policy positions

Reports of findings and recommendations

Special reports to Parliament

Exercise of formal powers (e.g. subpoenas and hearings)

Non-resolved complaints

Federal Court actions

Interventions in court

Referrals for prosecutions

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