2015-2016 Appendix B: Annual report of the Information Commissioner ad hoc
It is my pleasure to report here on the activities of the Office 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 (Act). This means that an access to information request can be made to the OIC as an institution to which the right of access to information applies.
The law that brought this about did not, however, create a mechanism separate from the OIC, which oversees government compliance with access requests, to investigate any complaints that access requests to the OIC have not been handled as the Act requires. Since it is a fundamental principle of access to information law that decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently, the office 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 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 investigating 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.
Outstanding complaints from previous year
Our Office had no outstanding complaints from the previous year.
New complaints this year
Eleven new complaints were received this year, all of them from the same person. Eight complaints were investigated and disposed of by the end of fiscal year and the remaining three will be part of next year’s annual report.
The central issue in the nine complaints, as well as in the other complaint mentioned, concerned the proper application of paragraph 16.1(1)(c) of the Act. This provision 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.
In each case, our investigation revealed that the disputed documents had been obtained during the course of the OIC’s own investigations. I therefore found that the OIC had properly applied the mandatory exemption in refusing to disclose the requested documents.
In two of these cases, the OIC had also applied the exemption for personal information and solicitor-client privilege. My investigation confirmed that these exemptions, too, had been properly invoked.
In the upshot, all of these complaints were found to be not well-founded.
In addition to these nine complaints, this Office also received correspondence from a number of individuals who were dissatisfied with how the OIC had investigated their complaints. They also raised concerns about what they described as the OIC’s delay in issuing findings regarding their complaints. This Office does not have jurisdiction to investigate concerns about how the OIC has investigated complaints made to it as the oversight body under the Act. Nor can my Office investigate concerns about any delay by the OIC in processing such complaints. My mandate is limited to receiving and investigating complaints that an access request for a record under the control of the OIC itself may not have been handled in accordance with the legislation.
The existence of an independent Commissioner, Ad Hoc, helps to ensure the integrity of the OIC’s handling of access requests made to it, as an institution, and therefore contributes to the overall system of access to information at the federal level. My Office looks forward to continuing to play this part in access to information.
May 31, 2016
David Loukidelis, QC
Information Commissioner, Ad Hoc for the
Office of information Commissioner of Canada