Canada ombudsman appeals ruling limiting access to government papers

[JURIST] The Canadian Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) [official website] announced Monday that it appealed a Federal Court [court website] decision in which the Court found that certain notes, records and correspondence generated by government ministers and their staff are not subject to public access under the Access to Information Act [text]. In Canada (Information Commissioner) v. Canada (National Defence) [opinion text], the Federal Court held that the only records and correspondence in ministers' offices that are subject to the Act are those that can be requested and obtained by a deputy minister or senior official to deal with departmental matters. The OIC said in a press release [text]:

The court ruled that records in ministers’ offices are not subject to disclosure under the Act, apart from certain records deemed to be under the department’s control. The criterion set by the court for establishing which records fall into this category is that they can be requested and obtained by the Deputy Minister or by senior officials to deal with departmental matters. The Information Commissioner’s position is that this criterion leaves the determination of which records come under the control of the department open to interpretation and could severely limit the scope of the Access to Information Act. In the Commissioner’s view, a record generated or obtained by a Minister, or on his behalf, relating to the administration of their department, is subject to the Act regardless of where the record is located.
The Globe and Mail has more.

The lawsuit arose in part out of attempts to gain access to the daily agenda books of former prime minister Jean Chrétien [official profile]. The access request was made by a researcher affiliated with the now-defunct Canadian Alliance party, a conservative party that opposed Chrétien's Liberal Party [party website].

 

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