The federal Access to Information Act and corresponding provincial freedom of information legislation provide a right of access to information held by government institutions, subject to certain exceptions. The same provincial legislation and the federal Privacy Act protect personal information collected by certain public-sector organizations.
Representing requesters, third parties that have provided confidential information to government, as well as municipal, provincial and federal government institutions, Blakes advises on the full range of freedom of information and privacy protection issues, including rights of access and correction; exemptions from disclosure; and rules relating to the collection, retention, use, disclosure and disposal of personal information.
Both commercial parties and public authorities come to Blakes for guidance on freedom of information legislation and its rules and implications. Blakes lawyers frequently assist business clients when responding to access to information requests for documents related to their business that are in the government’s possession. Blakes also represents both media and corporate clients requesting information from the government. Our litigators have argued many of the leading access to information cases, handled investigations and appeals before the federal and provincial Information and Privacy Commissioners, and represented clients at all levels of courts in Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada and the federal and provincial courts of appeal. Clients also seek our advice in drafting and interpreting contractual provisions concerned with the application of freedom of information legislation, and on the potential implications of providing confidential information to government.
Blakes also offers guidance to government entities regarding the handling of access requests and privacy compliance. They rely on our freedom of information and privacy expertise, calling on us to assist with establishing protocols regarding the collection, use and disclosure of information. These include internal mechanisms for responding to access to information requests, reviewing intended disclosures and establishing appropriate privacy protections.
Blakes lawyers also offer clients guidance on compliance matters involving the application of privacy and data protection legislation and responses to privacy-related complaints. We also assist clients in obtaining guidance from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and her provincial counterparts.
- Merck Frosst Canada Ltd. v. Canada (Health) – Represented the appellant in the leading case establishing the scope of the exemption protecting confidential third-party commercial information from disclosure.
- Canada (Information Commissioner) v. Canada (Minister of National Defence) – Represented interveners in the decision defining when information is in the “control” of a government institution and thus subject to access rights.
- Ontario (Public Safety and Security) v. Criminal Lawyers’ Association – Represented several interveners in the decision defining the scope of the public interest override.