2016-2017 9. Looking ahead
The Information Commissioner’s appointment will end on June 28, 2017. Her mandate has been extended on an interim basis until the end of December 2017.
In light of this, the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) will be preparing for transition to ensure corporate stability and transfer of knowledge.
The OIC will continue to capitalize on the momentum gained as part of its simplified investigation process and interest-based negotiation.Footnote 1
It will also continue to review the inventory of complaints to develop strategies for grouping complaints. Strategies for 2017–2018 include:
- the interpretation of the exemption for Canada Post (section 18.1) and complaints against this institution (see “Canada Post – Interpretation of section 18.1 of the Act” for further details);
- Cabinet confidences (section 69);
- responses to requests where an institution will neither confirm nor deny the existence of a record (subsection 10(2));
- the use of the personal information exemption (section 19) in compassionate disclosure situations; and
- the exercise of discretion in light of the Federal Court’s decision in Information Commissioner of Canada v. Minister of Transport Canada.Footnote 2
Investigation manual and code of procedures
An investigation manual and code of procedures are being created to provide investigators, complainants and institutions with a better understanding of the OIC’s processes and responsibilities. Where relevant, the manual will also include the OIC’s interpretation of provisions of the Act.
Advisory notices on the exercise of discretion, processing multiple complaints from one complainant, and investigations involving third parties are forthcoming.
Online complaint form
An online complaint form is in development to simplify the complaint process for complainants and investigators. The form will be piloted in the coming months to ensure functionality, and will be officially launched in 2017–2018.
Other technologies for investigations
Optical character recognition (OCR) software will be implemented to ease searching through voluminous records. Dashboards will also be used to create links between investigation and litigation files.
The OIC’s website is being updated to include renewed content and a refreshed, easier to navigate interface.
Right to Know Day
Each year on September 28, over 40 countries and 60 non-governmental organizations celebrate International Right to Know Day during Right to Know Week. The purpose of this day and corresponding week is to raise awareness about the public’s right of access to government-held information.
Right to Know Day 2017 will focus on access to information as a human right.
Timing of upcoming legislative amendments remains unknown
In March 2016, the government announced it would introduce a first phase of legislative reforms to the Access to Information Act in winter 2017, with a comprehensive review of the Act to occur in 2018.
The government has indefinitely delayed first phase reform to the Act, and it is not known when a comprehensive review will begin. (For a complete timeline, see Appendix A, “Access to Information Act reform: A broken promise?”)
The Commissioner and the OIC remain ready to assist the government and Parliamentarians on much needed amendments to the Act and to implement them once adopted.
- Footnote 1
Background: “Streamlining investigations at the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada”, Annual Report 2015–2016.
- Footnote 2