The Yukon justice department has made changes to how it handles access-to-information requests, including hiring a new staff member, following a complaint filed by the News over the department failing to meet legislated deadlines.
The News filed an access-to-information request to the justice department July 20 asking for records related to the Whitehorse courthouse cellblock. It was supposed to receive a response from the department by Aug. 21.
The News received an email from the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (ATIPP) office Aug. 22 stating that, due to “staff being on vacation,” the request was late in being processed and had been “deemed refused.” The justice department later provided a package of documents to the News on Aug. 30.
Under ATIPP laws, “staff being on vacation” is not a valid reason for requested records to be late.
The News filed a complaint over the department’s administration of the act.
In a phone call Oct. 16, Tara Martin, an investigator and compliance review officer with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC), said that her investigation concluded the News’s allegations were substantiated.
Martin said the justice department did not contest that it had provided the records late, and that her investigation found the reason for the lateness was because the person working on the file had fallen ill at the same time that other employees were on vacation.
In response to the investigation, Martin said the justice department made several commitments to preventing the situation from reoccurring. Those commitments include already having hired a new staff member; training staff to cover for each other’s responsibilities; ensuring that, if employees go on vacation, their files are passed on to their coworkers; ensuring that new files are processed in a “timely fashion” by ensuring employee redundancy; having the director of policy and communications step in to assist in the case of a staff shortage; managing leaves better so three staff members are not on vacation at once; and allowing the director to authorize paid overtime should extra work be required to meet ATIPP deadlines.
As a result, Martin said, the IPC is satisfied that the department had taken appropriate action to address the issue.
The complaint file is now closed.
Contact Jackie Hong at Jackie.Hong@yukon-news.com