Canada: Diffusion Élargie De L'information Contenue Aux Dossiers Tenus Par Des Organismes Publics Québécois

Des modifications au Règlement sur la diffusion de l'information et sur la protection des renseignements personnels1 (le « Règlement ») sont entrées en vigueur le 1er avril 2015. Ces modifications ont pour objet d'élargir la portée des renseignements que certains organismes publics québécois sont tenus de diffuser sur leur site Internet en vertu de la Loi sur l'accès aux documents des organismes publics et sur la protection des renseignements personnels2 (la « Loi »).3

De façon générale, ces modifications ont pour objectif de « favoriser la transparence gouvernementale par la diffusion proactive d'informations liées à la gestion des ressources financières des organismes publics québécois et de permettre aux citoyens de suivre les activités et dépenses gouvernementales »4. Toutefois, parmi ces modifications, une modification particulière est susceptible d'avoir un impact sur la gestion des recherches hors-titre dans le cadre des vérifications diligentes et/ou de la réalisation d'évaluations environnementales.

Les modifications ont donné lieu à de nouvelles règles :

  • la plupart des réponses fournies par certains organismes publics québécois suite à des demandes d'accès, seront publiées sur le site Internet de ces organismes; et
  • ces réponses pourront ensuite être étudiées, analysées et scrutées par toute personne.

Ces règles auront comme conséquences possibles :

(a) d'indiquer aux tiers la survenance d'une transaction potentielle;

(b) de rendre publiques des informations sur une propriété immobilière ou une entreprise;

(c) de créer de nouvelles sources de recherche en amont d'une transaction.

Rappelons que, dans le cadre de transactions commerciales, de même que lors de la réalisation d'évaluations environnementales, il est fréquent de demander à avoir accès aux dossiers des autorités gouvernementales afin de déterminer si certains enjeux juridiques existent à l'égard de propriétés, qui ne peuvent être identifiés par l'entremise d'une recherche sur le registre foncier. Ces recherches impliquent généralement la formulation de demandes d'accès auprès des organismes publics afin d'obtenir copie de diverses informations contenues à leurs dossiers concernant les propriétés sur lesquelles on souhaite obtenir des informations.

Or, depuis le 1er avril 2015, certains organismes publics québécois assujettis à la Loi doivent diffuser sur un site Internet, dans la mesure où ils sont accessibles en vertu de la Loi :

« (...) les documents transmis dans le cadre d'une demande d'accès, accompagnés de la décision anonymisée du responsable de l'accès aux documents, à l'exception de ceux contenant :

a) des renseignements personnels, à moins que ceux-ci aient un caractère public, au sens de l'article 55 de la Loi;

b) des renseignements fournis par un tiers au sens de l'article 23 ou 24 de la Loi;

c) des renseignements dont la communication doit être refusée en vertu des articles 28, 28.1, 29 ou 29.1 de la Loi (...) ».5

Jusqu'à tout récemment, les documents transmis dans le cadre d'une demande d'accès devaient être diffusés seulement si ceux-ci présentaient un intérêt pour l'information du public.

Ainsi, et à titre d'exemple, le ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques du Québec (« MDDELCC ») a apporté des modifications à son site Internet de sorte que les réponses aux demandes d'accès traitées par le MDDELCC, accompagnées des documents afférents accessibles, sont dorénavant diffusées sur son site Internet6, à moins que les documents visés par les demandes d'accès ne contiennent :

  • des renseignements personnels n'ayant pas un caractère public ;
  • des renseignements fournis par un tiers, i.e. tels que, par exemple, les renseignements fournis par une entreprise privée à un organisme public québécois ; ou
  • des renseignements dont la communication doit être refusée en vertu de la Loi tels que certains renseignements ayant des incidences sur l'administration de la justice et la sécurité publique.

LES CONSÉQUENCES SONT DOUBLES

D'une part, un demandeur d'accès pourra voir ses réponses rendues publiques. En effet, toute demande d'accès auprès de certains organismes publics québécois formulée dans le cadre d'une vérification diligente et/ou lors de réalisation d'évaluations environnementales peut dorénavant faire en sorte que certains documents, tels que ceux produits par un organisme public et ce même s'ils contiennent des renseignements sur une entreprise, soient accessibles à toute personne sur le site Internet de l'organisme public concerné.

D'autre part, toute personne pourra fouiller les informations rendues ainsi publiques. À titre d'exemple, il sera dorénavant possible d'effectuer des recherches parmi les documents ainsi rendus publics par le MDDELCC, soit par région administrative, par thématique et/ou par date. Les registres ainsi créés, suite à la modification du Règlement le 1er avril dernier, viennent donc ajouter une source supplémentaire d'informations lorsqu'il est question d'évaluer si des enjeux existent eu égard à une propriété donnée.

Par conséquent, il est dorénavant nécessaire, lors de la détermination des vérifications à faire dans le cadre des vérifications diligentes et/ou de la réalisation d'évaluations environnementales, (i) de déterminer s'il est ou non pertinent, compte tenu des objectifs poursuivis, de consulter les registres des réponses aux demandes d'accès et (ii) d'évaluer le bénéfice d'obtenir copie des dossiers détenus par certains organismes publics québécois eu égard au risque qu'il devienne évident que certaines propriétés soient ciblées par diverses demandes, laissant notamment sous-entendre une possibilité de transaction.

Footnotes

1 RLRQ, c. A-2.1, r.2.

2 RLRQ, c. A-2.1.

3 Décret 107-2015 (25 février 2015), Gazette officielle du Québec, partie 2, 11 mars 2015, 147e année, n°10, p. 453.

4 Projet de Règlement modifiant le Règlement sur la diffusion de l'information et sur la protection des renseignements personnels, Gazette officielle du Québec, partie 2, 26 novembre 2014, 146e année, n°48, p. 4183.

5 Règlement, art. 4(1) par.8.

6 MDDELCC, Réponses aux demandes d'accès aux documents, http://www.demandesinfos.mddelcc.gouv.qc.ca/ (date d'accès : 22 mai 2015).

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