Guide to FOIP-Chapter 4

P Guide to FOIP The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act Chapter 4 Exemptions from the Right of Access

TABLE OF CONTENTS Overview ....................................................................................................................................................................... 1 Interpreting Exemptions ......................................................................................................................................... 2 Limited & Specific ................................................................................................................................................. 4 Balancing Interests ............................................................................................................................................... 5 Class and Harm - Based Exemptions .................................................................................................................7 Class-based Exemptions ..................................................................................................................................... 7 Harm-based Exemptions .................................................................................................................................... 8 Mandatory & Discretionary Exemptions ..........................................................................................................9 Mandatory Exemptions....................................................................................................................................... 9 Discretionary Exemptions ............................................................................................................................... 10 Exercise of Discretion............................................................................................................................. 11 Public Interest Override ....................................................................................................................................... 14 Subsection 19(3)................................................................................................................................................. 14 Subsection 29(2)(o) ........................................................................................................................................... 15 Section 13: Records From Other Governments .......................................................................................... 16 Subsection 13(1)(a)............................................................................................................................................ 17 Subsection 13(1)(b) ........................................................................................................................................... 21 Subsection 13(1)(c) ............................................................................................................................................ 26 Subsection 13(1)(d) ........................................................................................................................................... 30 Subsection 13(2)................................................................................................................................................. 35 Section 14: Information Injurious to Intergovernmental Relations or National Defence ........... 39 Subsection 14(a) ................................................................................................................................................. 39 Subsection 14(b)................................................................................................................................................. 41 Section 15: Law Enforcement and Investigations ...................................................................................... 43 Subsection 15(1)(a)............................................................................................................................................ 44 Subsection 15(1)(a.1) ........................................................................................................................................ 48 Subsection 15(1)(b) ........................................................................................................................................... 51 Subsection 15(1)(c) ............................................................................................................................................ 53 Subsection 15(1)(d) ........................................................................................................................................... 56

Subsection 15(1)(e)............................................................................................................................................ 60 Subsection 15(1)(f)............................................................................................................................................. 62 Subsection 15(1)(g) ........................................................................................................................................... 66 Subsection 15(1)(h) ........................................................................................................................................... 70 Subsection 15(1)(i) ............................................................................................................................................. 72 Subsection 15(1)(j) ............................................................................................................................................. 74 Subsection 15(1)(k)............................................................................................................................................ 77 Subsection 15(1)(k.1) ........................................................................................................................................ 81 Subsection 15(1)(k.2) ........................................................................................................................................ 83 Subsection 15(1)(k.3) ........................................................................................................................................ 87 Subsection 15(1)(l) ............................................................................................................................................. 89 Subsection 15(1)(m) .......................................................................................................................................... 90 Subsection 15(2)................................................................................................................................................. 93 Section 16: Cabinet Documents ....................................................................................................................... 95 Subsection 16(1)(a)............................................................................................................................................ 98 Subsection 16(1)(b) ......................................................................................................................................... 104 Subsection 16(1)(c) .......................................................................................................................................... 109 Subsection 16(1)(d) ......................................................................................................................................... 113 Subsection 16(2) ............................................................................................................................................... 118 Subsection 16(2)(a) ............................................................................................................................... 119 Subsection 16(2)(b) .............................................................................................................................. 119 Section 17: Advice From Officials................................................................................................................... 121 Subsection 17(1)(a) .......................................................................................................................................... 125 Subsection 17(1)(b) ......................................................................................................................................... 133 Subsection 17(1)(c) .......................................................................................................................................... 139 Subsection 17(1)(d) ......................................................................................................................................... 144 Subsection 17(1)(e).......................................................................................................................................... 148 Subsection 17(1)(f)........................................................................................................................................... 150 Subsection 17(1)(g) ......................................................................................................................................... 153 Subsection 17(2) ............................................................................................................................................... 157

Subsection 17(3) ............................................................................................................................................... 161 Section 18: Economic and Other Interests ................................................................................................. 162 Subsection 18(1)(a) .......................................................................................................................................... 164 Subsection 18(1)(b) ......................................................................................................................................... 167 Subsection 18(1)(c) .......................................................................................................................................... 172 Subsection 18(1)(d) ......................................................................................................................................... 176 Subsection 18(1)(e).......................................................................................................................................... 180 Subsection 18(1)(f)........................................................................................................................................... 185 Subsection 18(1)(g) ......................................................................................................................................... 188 Subsection 18(1)(h) ......................................................................................................................................... 191 Subsection 18(2) ............................................................................................................................................... 194 Section 19: Third Party Business Information ............................................................................................ 195 Subsection 19(1)(a) .......................................................................................................................................... 198 Subsection 19(1)(b) ......................................................................................................................................... 200 Subsection 19(1)(c) .......................................................................................................................................... 212 Subclause 19(1)(c)(i) ............................................................................................................................. 213 Subclause 19(1)(c)(ii) ............................................................................................................................ 218 Subclause 19(1)(c)(iii) ........................................................................................................................... 223 Subsection 19(1)(d) ......................................................................................................................................... 227 Subsection 19(1)(e).......................................................................................................................................... 231 Subsection 19(1)(f)........................................................................................................................................... 234 Subsection 19(2) ............................................................................................................................................... 237 Subsection 19(3) ............................................................................................................................................... 238 Section 20: Testing Procedures, Tests and Audits ................................................................................... 245 Subsection 20(a) ............................................................................................................................................... 246 Subsection 20(b)............................................................................................................................................... 250 Section 21: Danger to Health or Safety ....................................................................................................... 253 Section 22: Solicitor-Client Privilege ............................................................................................................. 257 Subsection 22(a) ............................................................................................................................................... 257 Solicitor-client privilege ...................................................................................................................... 260

Case-by-Case Privilege ....................................................................................................................... 273 Common Interest Privilege ................................................................................................................ 275 Legislative Privilege .............................................................................................................................. 277 Litigation Privilege ................................................................................................................................ 279 Settlement Privilege ............................................................................................................................. 286 Subsection 22(b)............................................................................................................................................... 287 Subsection 22(c) ............................................................................................................................................... 289 Subsection 29(1): Disclosure of Personal Information ........................................................................... 291 Section 30: Personal Information of Deceased Individual .................................................................... 292 Subsection 30(1) ............................................................................................................................................... 292 Subsection 30(2) ............................................................................................................................................... 293 Section 31: Access to Personal Information............................................................................................... 294 Subsection 31(1) ............................................................................................................................................... 295 Subsection 31(2) ............................................................................................................................................... 296

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 4, Exemptions from the Right of Access. Updated 18 October 2023. 1 Overview This Chapter explains the various exemptions that a government institution may rely on to deny access to records or information to an applicant who has made an access to information request. For more on making an access to information request, see the Guide to FOIP, Chapter 3, “Access to Records.” What follows is non-binding guidance. Every matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis. This guidance is not intended to be an exhaustive authority on the interpretation of these exemptions. Government institutions may wish to seek legal advice when deciding on exemptions to apply. Government institutions should keep section 61 of FOIP in mind. Section 61 places the burden of proof for establishing that access to a record may or must be refused on the government institution. For more on the burden of proof, see the Guide to FOIP, Chapter 2, “Administration of FOIP.” This is a guide. This chapter covers: • Interpretation of Exemptions. • Class and Harm Based Exemptions. • Mandatory and Discretionary Exemptions. • Exercise of Discretion. • Public Interest Overrides. • Guidance on each of the exemptions in Part III of FOIP. The tests, criteria and interpretations established in this Chapter reflect the precedents set by the current and/or former Information and Privacy Commissioners in Saskatchewan through the issuing of Review Reports. Court decisions from Saskatchewan affecting The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) will be followed. Where this office has not previously considered a section of FOIP, the Commissioner looked to other jurisdictions for guidance. This includes other Information and Privacy Commissioners’ Orders, Reports and/or other relevant resources. In addition, court decisions from across the country are relied upon where appropriate. This Chapter will be updated regularly to reflect any changes in precedent. This office will update the footer to reflect the last update. Using the electronic version directly from our website will ensure you are always using the most current version.

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 4, Exemptions from the Right of Access. Updated 18 October 2023. 2 Interpreting Exemptions Section 5 of FOIP establishes a right of access by any person to records in the possession or control of a government institution, subject to limited and specific exemptions, which are set out in FOIP. For more on the right of access, see the Guide to FOIP, Chapter 3, “Access to Records.” Generally, an applicant has a right to access all or part of any record that is the subject of an access to information request. Refusal to disclose all or part of a record should occur only where FOIP provides a specific exemption. If the record or information is subject to FOIP and no exemption applies, the information or record must be disclosed. The rule of statutory interpretation enunciated by Driedger in The Construction of Statutes (2nd ed., 1983), was adopted by Justice Kalmakoff in Leo v Global Transportation Hub Authority (2019) as follows: [17] Applying the exemptions set out in FOIP involves, in large part, an exercise in statutory interpretation. The modern principle of statutory interpretation is that the words in an Act are to be read in their entire context and in their grammatical and ordinary sense, harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, the object of the Act, and the intention of the legislative body: Tran v Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), 2017 SCC 50 at para 23 [2017] 2 SCR 289; Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd. (Re), 1998 CanLII 837 (SCC), [1998] 1 SCR 27.1 Driedger also says in The Construction of Statutes that: 3. If the words are apparently obscure or ambiguous, then a meaning that best accords with the intention of Parliament, the object of the Act and the scheme of the Act, but one that the words are reasonably capable of bearing, is to be given them.2 Regard must also be had for the provisions of The Legislation Act, which provides: 2-10(1) The words of an Act and regulations authorized pursuant to an Act are to be read in their entire context, and in their grammatical and ordinary sense, harmoniously with the scheme of the Act, the object of the Act and the intention of the Legislature. 1 Leo v Global Transportation Hub Authority, 2019 SKQB 150 at [17]. See also section 2-10 of The Legislation Act, S.S. 2019, Chapter L-10.2. 2 Driedger, E. 1983 Construction of Statutes, 2nd Edition, Butterworth-Heinemann at p. 105.

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 4, Exemptions from the Right of Access. Updated 18 October 2023. 3 (2) Every Act and regulation is to be construed as being remedial and it to be given the fair, large and liberal interpretation that best ensures the attainment of its objects.3 The Supreme Court of Canada has stated various approaches to the interpretation of statutes. In his dissenting judgement in Singleton v. Canada (2001), Justice LeBel discussed and summarized three approaches utilized in recent cases. They are the words-in-total-context approach, the teleological (or purposive) approach and the plain meaning approach. He rationalized the three approaches in this way: If the “plain meaning” approach is to make any sense at all, it surely cannot mean that we are always to ignore context when interpreting statutory language. Rather, it must be understood to say that although context is always important, sweeping considerations of general statutory purpose cannot outweigh the specific statutory language chosen by Parliament. It is an acknowledgement that Parliament’s purpose can be complex. Rather than finding a single purpose for the Act as a whole and using it to interpret the clear language of specific provisions, we should use such broad purposes only as a context to help elucidate the meaning of specific statutory language. Understood in this way, it is not inconsistent with the basic thrust of the words-in-total-context approach.4 The Supreme Court of Canada accepted the “words-in-total-context” approach to statutory interpretation when considering a denial of access to information in Merck Frosst Canada Inc. v. Canada (Minister of National Health), (2000): The test for the application of the exemption in paragraph 20(1)(c) is that of a “reasonable expectation of probable harm”. In Canada Packers Inc. v. Canada, [1989] F.C. 47, the Federal Court of Appeal interpreted this disposition as follows, at page 60: …The words-in-total-context approach to statutory interpretation which this court has followed in Lor-Wes Contracting Ltd. v. The Queen, [1986] 1 F.C. 346: (1985), 60 N.R. 321 and Cashin v. Canadian Broadcasting Corp., [1983] 3 F.C. 494 requires that we view the statutory language in these paragraphs in their total context, which must here mean particularly in the light of the purpose of the Act as set out in section 2. Subsection 2(1) provides a clear statement that the Act should be interpreted in the light of the principle that government information should be available to the public and that exceptions to the public’s right of access should be “limited and specific”.5 3 The Legislation Act, S.S. 2019, Chapter L-10.2 at subsection 2-10. 4 Singleton v. Canada, [2002] 2 SCR 1046, 2001 SCC 61 (CanLII) at [68]. Also see Northern Thunderbird Air Ltd. v. Royal Oak & Kemess Mines Inc., 2002 BCCA 58 (CanLII) at [19]. 5 Merck Frosst Canada (Minister of National Health), 2000 CanLII 16042 (FC) at [13].

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 4, Exemptions from the Right of Access. Updated 18 October 2023. 4 A number of presumptions, including the principle against absurdity articulated by the Supreme Court of Canada in Rizzo v. Rizzo Shoes Ltd. (Re), (1998), also informs statutory interpretation: [27] …It is a well-established principle of statutory interpretation that the legislature does not intend to produce absurd consequences. According to [Pierre-Andre Cote, The Interpretation of Legislation in Canada (2nd ed. 1991)] an interpretation can be considered absurd if it leads to ridiculous or frivolous consequences, if it is extremely unreasonable or inequitable, if it is illogical or incoherent, or if it is incompatible with other provisions or with the object of the legislative enactment (at pp. 378-80). Sullivan echoes these comments noting that a label of absurdity can be attached to some interpretations which defeat the purpose of a statute or render some aspect of it pointless or futile (Sullivan, Construction of Statutes supra at p. 88).6 Limited & Specific The right of access is subject to limited and specific exemptions that are set out in Part III of FOIP. This includes sections 13 to 23 of FOIP. It also includes the withholding personal information provision at subsection 29(1) in Part IV of FOIP. Canadian courts agree that exemptions are the exception and disclosure is the general rule, with any doubt being resolved in favour of disclosure.7 The basic policy of the Act is that “disclosure, not secrecy is the dominant objective of the Act”.8 The Supreme Court of Canada has interpreted access to information laws as quasiconstitutional. It follows that as fundamental rights, the rights to access and to privacy are interpreted generously, while the exceptions to these rights must be understood strictly.9 For more on FOIP’s quasi-constitutional status, see the Guide to FOIP, Chapter 1, “Purposes and Scope of FOIP.” Each record must be carefully reviewed to determine whether an exemption applies. Government institutions should interpret the exemptions narrowly and only apply an 6 Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd. (Re), 1998 CanLII 837 (SCC), [1998] 1 SCR 27 at [27]. 7 Merck Frosst Canada Ltd. v. Canada (Health), [2012] 1 SCR 23, 2012 SCC 3 (CanLII) at [95] and Corporate Express Canada Inc. v Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2015 NLCA 52 (CanLII) at [20]. 8 General Motors Acceptance Corp. of Canada v. Saskatchewan Government Insurance [1993] S.J. No. 601 at [11], Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner (SK OIPC) Review Report F-2006-001 at [11]. 9 Remarks of the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, P.C., Chief Justice of Canada, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy in Canadian Democracy, May 5, 2009, also cited in SK OIPC Review Report F-2010-002 at [44].

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 4, Exemptions from the Right of Access. Updated 18 October 2023. 5 exemption to the specific information in a record to which the exemption applies. More than one exemption may apply to all or part of a record. For more on redacting or severing information, see the Guide to FOIP, Chapter 3, “Access to Records.” The majority of requests for review to the Commissioner under section 49 of FOIP arise from refusal to provide access. Government institutions should be prepared to document and support their decisions to withhold information. Balancing Interests When considering what exemptions to apply, government institutions must balance the right of access against denying it in order to protect other interests. In John Doe v Ontario (Finance), (2014), the Supreme Court of Canada concisely summarized the legislative purpose of access to information statutes such as FOIP: [1] Access to information legislation serves an important public interest: accountability of government to the citizenry. An open and democratic society requires public access to government information to enable public debate on the conduct of government institutions. [2] However, as with all rights recognized in law, the right of access to information is not unbounded. All Canada access to information statutes balance access to government information with the protection of other interests that would be adversely affected by otherwise unbridled disclosure of such information.10 In Merck Frosst Canada Ltd. v Canada (Health), (2012), the Supreme Court of Canada commented on the balancing act inherent in access to information. In that case, third party interests were at issue: [1] Broad rights of access to government information serve important public purposes. They help to ensure accountability and ultimately, it is hoped, to strengthen democracy. “Sunlight”, as Louis Brandeis put it so well, “is said to be the best of disinfectants” (“What Publicity Can Do”, Harper’s Weekly, December 20, 1913, 10, at p. 10). [2] Providing access to government information, however, also engages other public and private interests. Government, for example, collects information from third parties for regulatory purposes, information which may include trade secrets and other confidential commercial matters. Such information may be valuable to competitors and disclosing it 10 Also cited in Leo v Global Transportation Hub Authority, 2019 SKQB 150 at [18].

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 4, Exemptions from the Right of Access. Updated 18 October 2023. 6 may cause financial or other harm to the third party who had to provide it. Routine disclosure of such information might even ultimately discourage research and innovation. Thus, too single-minded a commitment to access to this sort of government information risks ignoring these interests and has the potential to inflict a lot of collateral damage. There must, therefore, be a balance between granting access to information and protecting these other interests in relation to some types of third party information. [3] The need for this balance is well illustrated by these appeals. They arise out of requests for information which had been provided to government by a manufacturer as part of the new drug approval process. In order to get approval to market new drugs, innovator pharmaceutical companies, such as the appellant Merck Frosst Canada Ltd. (“Merck”), are required to disclose a great deal of information to the government regulator, the respondent Health Canada, including a lot of material that they, with good reason, do not want to fall into their competitors’ hands. But competitors, like everyone else in Canada, are entitled to the disclosure of government information under the Access to Information Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. A-1 (“Act” or “ATI”). [4] The Act strikes a careful balance between the sometimes competing objectives of encouraging disclosure and protecting third party interests. While the Act requires government institutions to make broad disclosure of information, it also provides exemptions from disclosure for certain types of third party information, such as trade secrets or information the disclosure of which could cause economic harm to a third party. It also provides third parties with procedural protections. These appeals concern how the balance struck by the legislation between disclosure and protection of third parties should be reflected in the interpretation and administration of that legislation. Furthermore, Justice Gabrielson described the balancing act in Hande v University of Saskatchewan, (2019) as follows: [15] As can be seen, the Act attempts to strike a balance between the public’s right to access information which the Government of Saskatchewan (or a body holding delegated authority from the government) has to ensure accountability to persons affected by the information and the corresponding need to protect the privacy of individuals or other legitimate interests that may be impacted by the release of such material. It starts with the proposition that a person has access to all government records subject to limitations established by the Act. The limitations are set out in Part III of the Act which is entitled “Exemptions”. The exemptions define circumstances under which the head of a government or a government institution is required to refuse access to information contained in a record. Part IV of the Act, which is entitled “Protection of Privacy” deals

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 4, Exemptions from the Right of Access. Updated 18 October 2023. 7 with balancing the right of access to information with the protection of the interests of the individual in their own personal information.11 Class and Harm - Based Exemptions Exemptions under FOIP fall into two types – class-based and harm-based exemptions. Class-based Exemptions Class-based exemptions apply where the information falls within the class of information described in the exemption, and there is no reference to any consequence (or harm) that might result from the release of the information. Class-based exemptions presuppose that the information is inherently sensitive and that an injury or prejudice would automatically flow from release.12 Examples include section 16 of FOIP which protects cabinet documents. For class-based exemptions, the government institution must show that the information in question falls within the class of records described in the exemption. Class-based exemptions in FOIP include: • Section 13; • Section 14; • Parts of section 15; • Section 16; • Section 17; • Parts of section 18; • Parts of section 19; and • Section 22. 11 Hande v University of Saskatchewan, QBG 1222 of 2018, May 21, 2019 at [15]. 12 Government of Canada, Department of Justice, Resource, Strengthening the Access to Information Act, https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/csj-sjc/atip-aiprp/atia-lai/p5.html, accessed June 7, 2019.

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 4, Exemptions from the Right of Access. Updated 18 October 2023. 8 Harm-based Exemptions Harm-based exemptions, on the other hand, are based on a determination by the government institution that it is reasonable to expect that some injury, harm, or prejudice will occur if the information is released.13 Examples include subsection 19(1)(c) of FOIP which contemplates three different types of harm to a third party – financial loss or gain, prejudice to competitive position or interference with contractual or other negotiations. Harm-based exemptions in FOIP include: • Parts of section 15; • Parts of section 18; • Parts of section 19; • Section 20; and • Section 21. For harm-based exemptions to apply there must be objective grounds for believing that disclosing the information could result in the harm alleged. The government institution (or third party) does not have to prove that the harm is probable but needs to show that there is a likelihood the harm will occur if any of the information or records were released. In British Columbia (Minister of Citizens’ Service) v. British Columbia (Information and Privacy Commissioner), (2012), Justice Bracken confirmed that it is the release of the information itself that must give rise to a reasonable expectation of harm. The Supreme Court of Canada in Ontario (Community Safety and Correctional Service) v. Ontario (Information and Privacy Commissioner), (2014) set out the standard of proof for harms-based provisions as follows: This Court in Merck Frosst adopted the “reasonable expectation of probable harm” formulation and it should be used wherever the “could reasonably be expected to” language is used in access to information statutes. As the Court in Merck Frosst emphasized, the statute tries to mark out a middle ground between that which is probable and that which is merely possible. An institution must provide evidence “well beyond” or “considerably above” a mere possibility of harm in order to reach that middle ground: paras. 197 and 199. This inquiry of course is contextual and how much evidence and the quality of evidence needed to meet this standard will ultimately depend on the 13 Government of Canada, Department of Justice, Resource, Strengthening the Access to Information Act, https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/csj-sjc/atip-aiprp/atia-lai/p5.html, accessed June 7, 2019.

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 4, Exemptions from the Right of Access. Updated 18 October 2023. 9 nature of the issue and “inherent probabilities or improbabilities or the seriousness of the allegations or consequences”… Mandatory & Discretionary Exemptions The basis on which the exemptions are applied by the government institution also varies. In some cases, it is mandatory that the exemption be applied. In other cases, the head of the government institution has discretion as to whether to apply the exemption.14 The Legislation Act, SS 2019, c L-10.2 provides the following clarification on the terms “shall”, “must” and “may”: 2-30(1) In the English version of an enactment: (a) “shall” shall be interpreted as imperative; (b) “must” shall be interpreted as imperative; and (c) “may” shall be interpreted as permissive and empowering. Mandatory Exemptions A mandatory exemption is one where the government institution has no, or a more limited, discretion regarding whether or not to apply the exemption. That is, if the information is covered by the exemption and the conditions for the exercise of discretion do not exist, then it must not be disclosed. Mandatory exemptions can be contrasted with discretionary exemptions, where the head of the government institution must turn their mind actively to the question of whether or not the information should be protected or released.15 Mandatory exemptions begin with the phrase “A head shall refuse…” Shall is to be interpreted as imperative.16 The four mandatory exemptions in FOIP are as follows: • Records from other governments (section 13); 14 Government of Canada, Department of Justice, Resource, Strengthening the Access to Information Act, https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/csj-sjc/atip-aiprp/atia-lai/p5.html, accessed June 7, 2019. 15 Government of Canada, Department of Justice, Resource, Strengthening the Access to Information Act, https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/csj-sjc/atip-aiprp/atia-lai/p5.html, accessed June 7, 2019. 16 The Legislation Act, S.S. 2019, Chapter L-10.2 at ss. 2-30.

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 4, Exemptions from the Right of Access. Updated 18 October 2023. 10 • Cabinet documents (section 16); • Third party business information (section 19); and • Personal information (subsection 29(1)). The government institution must weigh all the criteria, factors and tests relating to the mandatory exemption before deciding whether the exemption applies. Information that falls within a mandatory exemption can be disclosed in some circumstances. For instance, where there is consent to release (e.g., 13(1) of FOIP), authority to release without consent (e.g., subsection 29(2) of FOIP), enough time has passed (16(2)(a) of FOIP) or there is a public interest override. For more on public interest overrides, see Public Interest Override later in this Chapter. Discretionary Exemptions Discretionary exemptions offer discretion for the government institution. In other words, disclosure can still occur even where a discretionary exemption is found to apply. Discretionary exemptions begin with the phrase “A head may refuse…” May is to be interpreted as permissive and empowering.17 Fish J. provided guidance in the Supreme Court of Canada decision Blank v. Canada (Minister of Justice) (2006), when dealing with a discretionary exemption in the federal Access to Information Act. In the majority judgment for the Court, he observed that: The language of [the solicitor-client exemption] is, moreover permissive. It provides that the Minister may invoke the privilege. This permissive language promotes disclosure by encouraging the Minister to refrain from invoking the privilege unless it is thought necessary to do so in the public interest. And it thus supports an interpretation that favours more government disclosure, not less.18 17 The Legislation Act, S.S. 2019, Chapter L-10.2 at ss. 2-30. 18 Blank v. Canada (Minister of Justice), [2006] 2 SCR 319, 2006 SCC 39 (CanLII) at [52]. Cited in SK OIPC Review Report LA-2007-001 at [58].

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 4, Exemptions from the Right of Access. Updated 18 October 2023. 11 All of the remaining exemptions in Part III of FOIP are discretionary exemptions. This includes: • Information injurious to intergovernmental relations or national defence (section 14); • Law enforcement and investigations (section 15); • Advice from officials (section 17); • Economic and other interests (section 18); • Testing procedures, tests, and audits (section 20); • Danger to health or safety (section 21); and • Solicitor-client privilege (section 22). A decision to apply a discretionary exemption requires two steps: 1. The head must determine whether the exemption applies; and 2. If it does, the head must go on to ask whether, having regard to all relevant interests, including public interest in disclosure, disclosure should be made.19 To determine the first step, the tests provided in this guide can be a starting point. For the second step, the following guidance on the exercise of discretion can assist. Exercise of Discretion The exercise of discretion is fundamental to applying FOIP. It requires the head, or staff member delegated to exercise the discretion of the head, to weigh all factors in determining whether or not information can be released despite a discretionary exemption being found to apply. Exercise of discretionary power means making a decision that cannot be determined to be right or wrong in an objective sense.20 A discretion conferred by statute must be exercised consistently with the purposes underlying its grant. It follows that to properly exercise this discretion, the head must weigh the considerations for and against disclosure, including the public interest in disclosure.21 19 Ontario (Public Safety and Security) v. Criminal Lawyers’ Association, 2010 SCC 23 at [66]. 20 SK OIPC Resource, Dictionary: Terms & Phrases in FOIP, LA FOIP & HIPA at p. 15. 21 Ontario (Public Safety and Security) v. Criminal Lawyers’ Association, 2010 SCC 23 at [46].

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 4, Exemptions from the Right of Access. Updated 18 October 2023. 12 Some factors that should be considered when exercising discretion include: • The general purposes of the Act (i.e., government institutions should make information available to the public, and individuals should have access to personal information about themselves). • The wording of the discretionary exemption and the interests which the exemption attempts to protect or balance. • Whether the applicant’s request may be satisfied by severing the record and providing the applicant with as much information as is reasonably practicable. • The historical practice of the government institution with respect to the release of similar types of records. • The nature of the record and the extent to which the record is significant or sensitive to the government institution. • Whether the disclosure of the information will increase public confidence in the operation of the government institution. • The age of the record. • Whether there is a definite and compelling need to release the record. • Whether the Commissioner’s recommendations have ruled that similar types of records or information should be released.22 Taking a “blanket approach” to applying exemptions may demonstrate that the government institution has not exercised its discretion or has exercised it improperly. Although it may be proper for a decision maker to adopt a policy under which decisions are made, it is not proper to apply this policy inflexibly to all cases. In order to preserve the discretionary aspect of a decision, the head must take into consideration factors personal to the applicant and must ensure that the decision conforms to the policies, objects, and provisions of the Act.23 The Supreme Court of Canada ruling Ontario (Public Safety and Security) v. Criminal Lawyers’ Association, (2010) confirmed the authority of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario to quash a decision not to disclose information pursuant to a discretionary exemption and to return the matter for reconsideration to the head of the public body.24 22 SK OIPC Review Report 305-2016 at [35], Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada Resource, Access to Information and Privacy, Process and Compliance Manual at pp. 62 and 63. 23 SK OIPC Investigation Report LA-2010-001 at [36], SK OIPC Review Reports F-2006-001 at [69], F2014-001 at [66]. 24 Referenced in SK OIPC Review Report 305-2016 at [36].

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 4, Exemptions from the Right of Access. Updated 18 October 2023. 13 The Supreme Court also considered the following factors to be relevant to the review of discretion: • The decision was made in bad faith. • The decision was made for an improper purpose. • The decision took into account irrelevant considerations. • The decision failed to take into account relevant considerations.25 When a government institution exercises its statutory discretion in a manner that results in information being withheld from disclosure, that discretion is properly reviewed by the Commissioner.26 During a review of a discretionary exemption, the Commissioner may recommend that the head of the government institution reconsider its exercise of discretion if the Commissioner feels one of these factors played a part in the original decision to withhold records. However, the Commissioner will not substitute their own discretion for that of the head.27 IPC Findings In Review Report 305-2016, the Commissioner recommended the head of Executive Council reconsider the use of discretion in withholding an email under subsection 17(1)(a) of FOIP. In making this recommendation, the Commissioner noted that the advice in the email was not about a proposed policy or direction of the government organization but rather the best way to communicate a particular message to public servants. It did not appear that Executive Council took into account the nature of the record and the extent to which the record was significant or sensitive to Executive Council. In Review Report 086-2018, the Commissioner recommended the Ministry of Health reconsider its exercise of discretion in withholding a record that would reveal the content of draft or subordinate legislation (subsection 17(1)(e) of FOIP). In making this recommendation, the Commissioner noted that the record was 14 years old, and the specific piece of legislation had been amended five times since the record was created. 25 Ontario (Public Safety and Security) v. Criminal Lawyers’ Association, 2010 SCC 23 at [71], referenced in SK OIPC Review Report 305-2016 at [37]. The Offices of the Information and Privacy Commissioners of British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario have also relied on these four factors. 26 Ontario (Public Safety and Security) v. Criminal Lawyers’ Association, 2010 SCC 23 at [68] to [74]. Referenced in the Office of the British Columbia Information and Privacy Commissioner (BC IPC) Decision F10-08 at [41]. 27 SK OIPC Review Report 305-2016 at [38].

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 4, Exemptions from the Right of Access. Updated 18 October 2023. 14 Public Interest Override FOIP does not contain an overarching public interest override which would require that information be disclosed in all cases where the general public interest in disclosure outweighs the specific interest which is intended to be protected by the exempting provision. Rather, the public interest in disclosure is addressed on a case-by-case basis only in connection with two exemptions in FOIP.28 These are subsections 19(3) and 29(2)(o). The purpose of adding a public interest override includes promoting democracy by increasing public participation. When considering a public interest override, the government institution should create a list of factors in favour of withholding and public interest factors for releasing. This will help when it comes to assessing the relative weight of the factors.29 Generally, a government institution should not consider factors such as embarrassment, loss of confidence in the government, potential misunderstanding or that release could result in unnecessary confusion and debate.30 Subsection 19(3) Third party information 19(3) Subject to Part V, a head may give access to a record that contains information described in subsection (1) if: (a) disclosure of that information could reasonably be expected to be in the public interest as it relates to public health, public safety or protection of the environment; and (b) the public interest in disclosure could reasonably be expected to clearly outweigh in importance any: (i) financial loss or gain to; (ii) prejudice to the competitive position of; or (iii) interference with contractual or other negotiations of; a third party. 28 Government of Canada, Department of Justice, Resource, Strengthening the Access to Information Act, https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/csj-sjc/atip-aiprp/atia-lai/p5.html, accessed June 7, 2019. 29 Office of the Newfoundland and Labrador Information and Privacy Commissioner (NFLD IPC), Resource, Guidelines for Public Interest Override at pp. 2 and 3. 30 NFLD IPC Resource, Guidelines for Public Interest Override at pp. 2 and 3.

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 4, Exemptions from the Right of Access. Updated 18 October 2023. 15 Subsection 19(3) of FOIP is a discretionary provision for the release of third-party information in circumstances where the head of the government institution forms the opinion that disclosure “could reasonably be in the public interest as it relates to public health, public safety or protection of the environment”. For more on this provision, see subsection 19(3) later in this Chapter. IPC Findings The Commissioner considered subsection 19(3) of FOIP in Review Report 043-2015. An applicant made an access to information request to the Ministry of Environment for the “2012 and 2013 Water and Air Quality Compliance Reports”. The Ministry withheld portions of the two reports citing subsections 19(1)(b) and (c) of FOIP (third party information). Upon review, the Commissioner found that subsection 19(1)(c) of FOIP applied to portions of the reports. Further, the Commissioner found that the public interest resulting from disclosure of the information would outweigh in importance any financial loss or prejudice to the competitive position of the third party. As such, the Commissioner found that subsection 19(3) of FOIP applied. The Commissioner recommended release. Subsection 29(2)(o) Disclosure of personal information 29(2) Subject to any other Act or regulation, personal information in the possession or under the control of a government institution may be disclosed: … (o) for any purpose where, in the opinion of the head: (i) the public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs any invasion of privacy that could result from the disclosure; or (ii) disclosure would clearly benefit the individual to whom the information relates; Subsection 29(2)(o) of FOIP is a discretionary provision for the release of personal information without consent in circumstances where the head of the government institution forms the opinion that the public interest “clearly outweighs any invasion of privacy” or where disclosure would “clearly benefit the individual to whom the information relates.” For more on this provision, see the Guide to FOIP, Chapter 5, “Third Party Information” or Chapter 6, “Protection of Privacy.”

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