Decisions

122 decisions found

Jun 3
2010

Section 16: Withholding information requires evidence of probable harm

Institution
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Section of the Act
16
Decision Type
notable investigation
Summary

Complaint: The CBC exempted all records containing certain internal accounting codes and certain credit card numbers, claiming the exemption that protects any information that might facilitate the commission of an offence (subsection 16(2)).

Investigation: The OIC learned CBC access officials had begun automatically exempting such records in an attempt to keep up with a flood of requests it had received upon becoming subject to the Act. However, when pressed during the investigation to prove that the exemption actually applied to the information, access officials conceded that, in order to commit an offence using the internal codes, a breakdown of CBC accounting controls would have to happen at several levels.

Outcome: The CBC released the accounting codes. The OIC agreed, though, that releasing the credit card numbers could facilitate the commission of an offence. As such, this information remained protected.

Information Commissioner’s position:

  • When deciding to withhold information under section 16, institutions must assess and then demonstrate how its disclosure would result in probable harm to the particular interest it has identified—financial harm, in this case.
  • When institutions cannot demonstrate the harm, they must disclose the information.
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Jun 3
2010

Commissioner will exercise full powers in cases of extreme delay

Institution
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Section of the Act
10(3)
Decision Type
notable investigation
Summary

Complaint: The CBC failed, in 32 instances, to meet a deadline previously negotiated with the OIC to respond to more than 260 outstanding requests.

Investigation: To investigate the 32 complaints the Commissioner initiated, the OIC asked the CBC for the processing file for each request. The OIC also informed the CBC that the Commissioner would exercise her formal powers to compel it to produce the responsive records, if required. In response, the CBC forwarded the processing files but not the responsive records.

Outcome: The CBC responded to all of the outstanding requests before it became necessary to issue the order for production of records. These and other requests also became the subject of court proceedings by the complainant.

Information Commissioner’s position:

  • The Commissioner will use her formal powers—including compelling institutions to produce records—to ensure requesters’ rights are respected.
  • In this case, doing so expedited the eventual response to more than 30 requests.
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