Access to Information Act – Exemptions
– Personal Information – Minister's
Four appeals in respect of applications for judicial review of
refusals to disclose under the Access to Information Act
(the "Act") by the Information
Commissioner of Canada were heard together. Pursuant to section 4
of the Act, a requester has a right to "any record under the
control of a government institution", subject to certain
exceptions. The court, with Charron J. writing for the majority and
LeBel J. concurring in the result, upheld the lower court rulings
that the Prime Minister's Office and the relevant ministerial
office do not form part of the "government institution"
for which they are responsible for the purposes of the Act. For
example, the court found that the office of the Minister of
National Defence is not part of the Department of National
The court then had to determine whether the requested records at
the ministerial offices in question were nevertheless "under
the control" of the government institution for which they are
responsible. "Control" is not defined in the Act. The
majority found that to give a meaningful right of access to
information, control must be broadly and liberally interpreted.
Apart from physical control, a court is to consider: (1) whether
the record relates to a departmental matter; and (2) all relevant
factors to the determination of whether the government institution
could reasonably expect to obtain a copy upon request.
In this case, one of the requests was for the Prime
Minister's agendas, which were in the hands of the RCMP and the
Privy Council Office. Those records were found to be in the control
of the government institutions. The records constituted
"personal information", and while s. 3(j) of the Act
permitted disclosure of personal information where such information
pertains to an individual who is an officer or employee of the
government institution, the majority found that the Prime Minister
was not to be treated as an "officer" of the Privy
Council Office. Had that result been intended, it would have been
expressed explicitly in the Act. The Prime Minister's agenda
thus fell outside the scope of the access to information regime.
All four refusals to disclose were upheld.
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In Irwin v. Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, 2015 ABCA 396, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the "ABVMA" failed to afford procedural fairness to a veterinarian undergoing an incapacity assessment.
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