Crystal Schick/Yukon News file Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay is allowing a Yukon government department to disregard seven out of 30 access-to-information requests filed by a single person within the span of a year.

YG department can disregard seven out of 30 ATIPP requests filed by one person, IPC rules

Diane McLeod-McKay found that the seven requests were systematic and would cause undue burden on department

The Yukon’s information and privacy commissioner has given a Yukon government department permission to disregard seven out of 30 access-to-information requests filed by a single person within the span of a year, finding the requests were “systematic.”

Diane McLeod-McKay released her 64-page decision on the case July 31.

It’s believed to be the first decision from the Yukon Information and Privacy Commissioner’s office that deals with section 43 of the territory’s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The section allows for public bodies to ask the commissioner to allow them to disregard requests that “would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the public body” due to the “repetitious or systematic nature of the requests” or because the requests are “are frivolous or vexatious.”

According to the decision, the department requested relief from the commissioner under that section on Nov. 9, 2018, after receiving a total of 30 access-to-information requests from a single applicant over the period of a year.

The majority, if not all, of the applicant’s requests appear to be related to the applicant’s employment and probationary period within the department.

The applicant’s name and other identifying details, including his job title, have been redacted from the decision.

The department’s name, the subject of some of the applicant’s requests, are also redacted.

In an interview Aug. 1, McLeod-McKay said she removed those details because they could potentially identify the applicant, and because they were not relevant as to how she arrived to her conclusion.

While copious, the applicant’s requests were not systematic until the 22nd request.

“This Access Request and those that follow demonstrate the Applicant was of the view that the Department was withholding records, altering them prior to release, destroying them, or improperly applying exceptions to them or the information therein,” the decision says.

“This is despite a finding by my Office that the same allegations made by the Applicant in respect of (nine pervious access requests) were unfounded.”

The 22nd to 30th request, which included the seven requests the department wanted to disregard, “all contain information that suggest the Applicant was in fact combing through information received from prior access requests made to the Department or other public bodies to identify other information or records to request,” the decision continues.

Taken with evidence provided by the applicant and the timing of their filings, the requests “demonstrate a pattern of conduct that is regular and deliberate.”

In their submissions, the applicant denied the requests were systematic and that “any burden on the Department was caused by its own doing.”

Among the department’s submissions was that the single employee tasked with processing access-to-information requests had spent approximately 40 per cent of their year just working on the applicant’s requests, excluding the seven the department was seeking to disregard.

That time, if translated to salary, represented about $35,000, the department said, adding that the applicant’s requests made up more than 50 per cent of all access requests received by the department over a redacted timeframe.

“The volume and detail associated with the Applicant’s Access Requests has already had a significant impact on the Department’s resources,” the decision says, adding that processing the seven requests would hinder the department’s ability to process requests from other applicants.

McLeod-McKay ultimately concluded that the department had the right to disregard the seven requests.

In the interview, McLeod-McKay said she wasn’t concerned about public bodies abusing section 43 in order to maliciously withhold information.

“The way I would describe it is, there are limits and where there is what I would describe (as) sort of an abuse of process, then the act actually allows public bodies in very limited and specific circumstances to refuse to process access to information requests, but that’s of course only with commissioner oversight,” she said.

“And even if I determine, let’s say for example, that it did meet one of the circumstances that they’re authorized to disregard, I can still exercise my discretion … We are talking about removing someone’s access to information rights so it should be narrowly interpreted and high thresholds and lots of evidence and good facts.”

The decision also noted that while there was not enough evidence to make a concrete finding, there may have been opportunities for the department’s record manager to work more closely with the applicant on narrowing or clarifying his requests that could have alleviated the situation.

“I think there needs to be a lot more training that needs to occur,” McLeod-McKay said in the interview.

“And that’s one of the things I identified when they reappointed me, is that I needed to focus on the access-to-information system, because the way it’s being administered I think is problematic, there is not enough training being provided. I also think there’s some challenges with records management in government and they need to manage their records more effectively, which would certainly facilitate better access to information — less having to search, less having to go through the records.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Access to Information

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read