2012-2013 Appendix A: Report of the Information Commissioner ad hoc
This is the second year that it has been my pleasure to report on the activities of the Information Commissioner, Ad Hoc. On April 1, 2007, the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) became subject to the Access to Information Act (the “ATI Act”). The law that brought this about did not create at the same time a separate mechanism to investigate any complaints that an access request to the OIC has been improperly handled.
Since it is a fundamental principle of access to information law that decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently, the function of an independent Information Commissioner, Ad Hoc was created and given the authority to investigate any such complaints about the OIC.
More specifically, pursuant to subsection 59(1) of the ATI Act, the Information Commissioner has authorized me, as Commissioner, Ad Hoc:
… to exercise or perform all of the powers, duties and functions of the Information Commissioner set out in the Access to Information Act, including sections 30 to 37 and section 42 inclusive of the Access to Information Act, for the purpose of receiving and independently investigat[ing] any complaint described in section 30 of the Access to Information Act arising in response to access requests made in accordance with the Act to the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada.
I am the fourth person to hold this office since 2007.
Two new complaints were received this past year. In the first, the complainant says that the OIC failed in its statutory duty to assist him by burdening him with too many documents when it responded to his request. This complaint was still pending at the end of the year.
The second complaint concerns the scope and meaning of section 16.1 of the ATI Act, a provision that exempts from production information obtained or created in the course of an investigation by the OIC. Once the investigation and all related proceedings are finally concluded, however, the exemption is partially lifted. At that point, the exemption no longer applies to documents created during the investigation. The issue in this complaint is whether the OIC applied this provision properly to the facts of this case. This complaint, too, was still pending at the end of the year.
The existence of an independent Commissioner, Ad Hoc ensures the integrity of the complaints process at the OIC. We remain ready to investigate any future complaints against the OIC thoroughly and independently.
It is a privilege to serve as Information Commissioner, Ad Hoc.
John H. Sims, Q.C.