Providing the record to my office
I attended a virtual conference of a Commissioner roundtable. One of the Commissioners addressed an issue regarding providing his office with the record when reviewing an appeal of the denial of an access request. He went on to say that the record was necessary to do the job of a review and that his office never releases the record. I thought it was timely to write about this in Saskatchewan.
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) and The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (LA FOIP), in section 5 of each Act, establish the principle that citizens can ask for records in the possession or control of government institutions or local authorities (public bodies). The record is to be provided to citizens, if requested, subject to certain exemptions. When a public body decides not to provide a record or portions thereof, the citizen can ask for a review of the decision by my office.
One of the first things we ask for is the record that is at issue. It is impossible to do what we have to do without seeing that record. This means we need to see a redacted and unredacted version. Some public bodies are at times reluctant to give us that record. They might ask why we need it. The answer is it is absolutely essential to doing our job. Some will say the record is very sensitive. We understand a record might be sensitive, but that does not change the job the Legislative Assembly requires us to do. Some might feel a particular record is embarrassing or affects the public body’s reputation, but that does not change our need for the record. Some might suggest they do not want the record to become public. My office is not going to release that document to anyone, including the Applicant. My office does not release documents that are at issue.
What we do is review the record and the representations of the public body, do an analysis and then write a report recommending that the public body release the record or withhold the record. It is then up to the public body to decide whether it will release or continue to withhold the record. If there is no appeal to court, my office will destroy the record or delete it electronically, six months after the report is issued. If there is an appeal to the Court, my office will hold the record until the court’s decision is issued.
All of this to say, to do our job we need the record and we NEVER, NEVER RELEASE RECORDS. That is the decision of the public body.