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. 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.” 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].