Guide to FOIP-Chapter 1

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 1, Purposes and Scope of FOIP. Updated 7 March 2023 4 specific exemptions to take care of potential abuses. There are legitimate privacy interests that could be harmed by release of certain types of information. Accordingly, specific exemptions have been delineated to achieve a workable balance between the competing interests. The Act’s broad provisions for disclosure, coupled with specific exemptions, prescribe the “balance” struck between an individual’s right to privacy and the basic policy of opening agency records and action to public scrutiny.7 FOIP closely corresponds to provisions in the federal Access to Information Act. The purpose of the Access to Information Act is described as follows: 2(1) The purpose of this Act is to enhance the accountability and transparency of federal institutions in order to promote an open and democratic society and to enable public debate on the conduct of those institutions.8 As stated by Mr. Justice La Forest in Dagg v. Canada (Minister of Finance), 1997 CanLII 358 (SCC), [1997] 2 SCR 403 at [61]: The overarching purpose of access to information legislation, then, is to facilitate democracy. It does so in two related ways. It helps to ensure first, that citizens have the information required to participate meaningfully in the democratic process, and secondly, that politicians and bureaucrats remain accountable to the citizenry. As Professor Donald C. Rowat explains in his classic article, “How Much Administrative Secrecy?” (1965), 31 Can. J. of Econ. and Pol Sci. 479, at p. 480: Parliament and the public cannot hope to call the Government to account without an adequate knowledge of what is going on; nor can they hope to participate in the decision-making process and contribute their talents to the formation of policy and legislation if that process is hidden from view.9 In Legislation on Public Access to Government Documents, the reasons for access to information legislation are discussed. The author, Honourable John Roberts, Secretary of State, concluded that the reasons for such legislation include: • Effective accountability - the public’s judgment of choices taken by government - depends on knowing the information and options available to the decision-makers. 7 General Motors Acceptance Corp. of Canada v. Saskatchewan Government Insurance, 1993 CanLII 9128 (SK CA) at [11]. See also SK OIPC Review Report F-2004-003 at [8]. 8 Access to Information Act, RSC 1985, c A-1 at subsection 2(1). 9 Dagg v. Canada (Minister of Finance), 1997 CanLII 358 (SCC), [1997] 2 SCR 403 at [61].