Guide to FOIP-Chapter 4

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 4, Exemptions from the Right of Access. Updated 8 April 2024. 5 Each record must be carefully reviewed to determine whether an exemption applies. Government institutions should interpret the exemptions narrowly and only apply an 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 10 Also cited in Leo v Global Transportation Hub Authority, 2019 SKQB 150 at [18].