Yukon Information and Privacy Commissioner
Decision under ATIPP Act is an example of limits on access to information rights
Wed, Jul 31, 2019
Information and Privacy Commissioner also emphasizes government duty to assist applicants
WHITEHORSE – The Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC) for the Yukon has issued a decision which shows one of the potential restrictions on the right to access information.
The decision dealt with a case in which an applicant had made 30 access to information requests to one Yukon government department over a period of a year. The department asked the IPC, Diane McLeod-McKay, to grant it relief, under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPP Act), to disregard seven of the requests.
The IPC found that the seven requests were repetitious or systematic in nature and that requiring the department to process them, after it had already processed 23 of the applicant’s access requests, would unreasonably interfere with its operations. She also authorized the department to disregard future access requests from this applicant that it finds to be (according to the tests set out in the IPC decision) repetitious or systematic and that would unreasonably interfere with its operations.
“Section 43 of the ATIPP Act empowers me to authorize public bodies such as Yukon government departments to disregard access to information requests under certain conditions,” said McLeod-McKay. “However, restricting access to information rights should not be taken lightly and should only occur after careful consideration of all the facts. Authorizing this type of restriction under Section 43 should be the exception to the rule and not a routine option for public bodies to avoid their obligations under the ATIPP legislation.”
The access to information requests in this case were primarily in regard to the work performance of the applicant, including emails, messages, meeting notes, and records regarding recruiting, hiring, and training.
The department’s position was that the seven requests it sought relief from were duplicative, argumentative and alleged misconduct. It said that the requests were repetitious and systematic, that they included unworkable criteria, and that the burden on the department would not be outweighed by the benefit to the applicant.
The applicant’s position was that the department was improperly processing their access to information requests, which led the applicant to make numerous requests.
In her decision, McLeod-McKay indicated that the Government of Yukon Records Manager and the department may have failed to meet their combined duty to assist the applicant.
“Many of the access to information requests in this case lacked detail,” said McLeod-McKay. “Requests that do not clearly identify the records or information sought can lead to misinterpretations, which can result in some records being missed, or in access being given to unrelated records. This is serious. When a public body receives an access request, there should be no room for interpretation about the records or information sought by an applicant. If a public body receives an access request that is not clear, it must work with the Records Manager to clarify the request.”
The IPC’s decision in this case can be found on her website here with redactions made to protect the identity of the applicant.
The Ombudsman, Information and Privacy Commissioner and Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner is an independent officer of the Yukon Legislative Assembly. For more information, please go to http://www.ombudsman.yk.ca/.
Office of the Yukon Ombudsman, Information and Privacy Commissioner & Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner