canadian_banner

      Access to Information Trials Cost Taxpayers Big Dollars

      Nov 09, 2011
      Expensive legal battles against Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault have Federal taxpayers footing the bills. According to an Ottawa Citizen article, both the Department of Justice and Public Safety Canada are tied up in litigation with Legault over Access to Information requests.

      Expensive legal battles against Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault have Federal taxpayers footing the bills. According to an Ottawa Citizen article, both the Department of Justice and Public Safety Canada are tied up in litigation with Legault over Access to Information requests.

      Legault filed a lawsuit against both departments claiming they refused to release a document describing how the government may obtain information from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to defend civil claims, according to the Ottawa Citizen. However, the government is claiming exemptions from the open records law and contends that solicitor-client privilege undermines the requirement to release the documents.

      Meanwhile, another case involving the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) with the Commissioner continues to drag on as well. The CBC also refused to let Legault examine documents and claimed the records cannot be released under the Access to Information Act because they relate to journalism or creative activities, notes the article. However, The Federal Court awarded Legault the right to look at the records to see if that is the case, but CBC has appealed that decision.

      Conservative Member of Parliament Dean Del Mastro, the parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said, “My concern is that we have a public entity, the CBC, in court against the Information Commissioner of this House spending millions of dollars fighting each other. I think a lot of Canadians would be really troubled to know that we are spending an awful lot of taxpayers’ money on a court case where in fact they’re funding both sides of it.”

      Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein said he doesn’t take sides in the legal dispute between Legault and CBC noting that “both are perfectly legitimate positions,” and pointed to unclear wording of the law.

      According to the article, von Finckenstein noted that the law seems to exclude journalistic and creative records from the Access to Information Act, however it is unclear whether that means the Information Commissioner cannot use her powers under the open records law to examine the records, as CBC maintains.

      “The easiest way to fix it is to establish by legislation whether she can look at the documents or she cannot,” said von Finckenstein. “That’s why we have courts – to resolve it.”

       

       This monthly advisory contains brief summaries of recent legislative and regulatory issues that may affect the management of records and information in Canada.

       Want to sign up to receive an e-mail version of the Canadian Policy Brief? It's free! Just tell us a little about yourself and you'll receive a monthly dose of the latest in legislation, regulation, and more.

       

       

        © 2016, ARMA International