July 2, 2019 - Public Sector

Federal Access to Information Act undergoes major overhaul

With her new powers, the Information Commissioner may now order government institutions to disclose requested records.

Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, received Royal Assent on Friday, June 21, 2019.

  • Bill C-58 amends the Federal Access to Information Act to, among other things:
  • authorize the head of a government institution (subject to the Information Commissioner's approval) to decline a request for access to a record if the request is vexatious, made in bad faith or is abusive;
  • authorize the Information Commissioner to refuse or cease to investigate if: a) the complaint is trivial, frivolous or vexatious, or is made in bad faith; or b) the investigation is unnecessary having regard to all the circumstances of the complaint; 
  • provide the Information Commissioner with power to order the disclosure of documents, subject, in certain circumstances, to a de novo court review initiated by the complainant, head of the government institution, third parties (in respect of trade secrets, confidential commercial information, etc.) or the Privacy Commissioner (when personal information might be involved);
  • expressly authorize the Information Commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner to examine documents which government institutions claim are subject to solicitor-client privilege, professional secrecy, or litigation privilege in the context of an investigation; 
  • authorize the Information Commissioner to publish her final reports anytime as opposed to only in her annual reports to Parliament; and,
  • introduce proactive disclosure requirements for Parliamentarians, Parliamentary entities, Ministers (including the Prime Minister), and court administration services in respect of certain designated information, including travel, hospitality and contracts, etc.

These changes will apply to requests and complaints received on or after June 21st, 2019.

We will be updating the Access to Information Topic Hubs on our new AccessPrivacy website over the coming weeks and will be discussing the practical implications of these significant changes during our next monthly call on September 25, 2019at 11:30 a.m. EDT.