Category: Access to Information


R v Rogers Communications: Some Guidelines for Big Brother

In R v Rogers Communications, 2016 ONSC 70 [Rogers], Justice John Sproat of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice provided some much needed guidance to police and issuing justices when handling production orders for “tower dumps.” Sought by investigators through a court order, tower dumps occur when a telecom company is compelled to provide the names and numbers of cellphone users that have used a particular cellphone tower. So why should you care if you did not commit a crime? What are the police going to do with that information? There is a good chance that if the information is...


A Exclusive Interview: R v Spencer One Year Later

A New Hurdle To Protecting Our Children? A Perspective from the Toronto Police Internet Child Exploitation Unit Last year, published two key articles about the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark ruling on Internet privacy. See Jordan Casey’s summary here and Stuart Wood’s analysis here. After its release, R v Spencer, [2014] 2 SCR 212 [Spencer] was hailed by privacy advocates as a monumental shift toward establishing meaningful protection of informational privacy and fundamental notions of liberty and human rights. However, strong views expressing the detrimental effect of Spencer are more pronounced as the impact of the ruling sets in. In...


A Turn in Tide: Carter versus Rodriguez

Some months ago, the Supreme Court of Canada’s (“SCC”) ruling in Carter v Canada (Attorney General), [2015] 1 SCR 331 [Carter] made national headlines. Although all decisions of the SCC are important, this one seemed to strike a nerve or two on both sides of the playing field. In this case, as described in more detail here and here, the Court struck down a twenty-one-year-old law declaring physician-assisted dying an indictable offence. With the old law, once a person was convicted he or she could face up to 14 years of imprisonment. Although the ruling in R v Rodriguez, [1993] 3 SCR 519 [Rodriguez]...


Hopkins v Kay: Health Law Information Remains Protected by the Common Law

In Hopkins v Kay, 2015 ONCA 112 the Ontario Court of Appeal (“ONCA”) ensured that parties who suffer misuse of their private health information can claim common law damages against the wrongdoer. The court found that statutory damages under the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004, SO 2004, c 3, Sch A [PHIPA], did not create an exhaustive means of redress.


Naming Names in the FRO: Ontario (MCSS) v John Doe

The Family Responsibility Office (“FRO”) is a division of the Ministry of Community and Social Services that is responsible for collecting, distributing, and enforcing child and spousal support payments. It has broad enforcement powers for those who fall behind on their support. These include garnishing bank accounts, suspending driver’s licences and passports, and issuing writs of seizure and sale on property. Use of these powers has made the FRO staff and individual employees the target of threats by delinquent support payors. These threats were the subject of the Ontario Court of Appeal’s (“ONCA”) recent decision in Ontario (Minister of Community...


Does Government Spying Make Us Safer? Liberty v Secretary of State

A Decision of the United Kingdom’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal (“the Tribunal”) in Liberty v Secretary of State, [2015] UKIPTrib 13 77-H [Liberty], endorsed the importance of transparency in the surveillance practices of British security agencies such as the Security Service (“MI5”), the Secret Intelligence Service (“MI6”), and the Government Communications Headquarters (“GCHQ”). The decision emphasized meaningful procedural protections for citizens as a necessary counterbalance to intrusive state powers. The Tribunal’s rationale marks an important contrast to the approach adopted by Canadian policymakers in striking a balance between state security and civil liberties in a time of expanding state surveillance powers.


The Retirement of Justice Louis LeBel and the Secretive Process that Led to the Appointment of Suzanne Côté

The government has slammed the door on parliamentary and public involvement regarding the replacement of retiring Justice Louis LeBel. On November 30, 2014, Justice LeBel turned 75, the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court judges. Most justices often depart some months before their birthdays, but LeBel decided to take his tenure right to the end. He gave his six months’ notice on May 23, 2014, and Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin’s office announced the retirement in a news release that day.


Confidentiality and the Ontario Sex Offender Registry: CSCS v IPC

In Ontario (Community Safety and Correctional Services) v Ontario (Information and Privacy Commissioner), 2014 SCC 31 [CSCS v IPC], the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) was asked to interpret the interaction between the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, RSO 1990, c F31 [FIPPA] and Christopher’s Law (Sex Offender Registry), 2000, SO 2000, c 1 [Christopher’s Law]. This post will discuss two issues from the decision: Whether information contained in Ontario’s Sex Offender Registry (“Registry”), created by Christopher’s Law, can be accessed through the FIPPA; and The test that must be satisfied to trigger the law enforcement exemptions...


State Surveillance Powers Made Available to Plaintiffs in a Class Action: Imperial Oil v Jacques

In a decision released on October 17, 2014, Imperial Oil v Jacques, 2014 SCC 66 [Imperial Oil v Jacques], a majority of the Supreme Court Court (“SCC”) upheld a Quebec motion court’s ruling that allowed plaintiffs in a class action to access relevant government surveillance materials during civil discovery proceedings. The class action arose after an investigation of gasoline price-fixing in Quebec led to criminal charges against numerous companies and individuals. Following the investigation, a group of plaintiffs represented by Simon Jacques launched a class action to recover the undue profits from Alimentation Couche-Tard and from Imperial Oil, operator of Esso gas stations. To...


Access to Information and Advice: Interpreting the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

In John Doe v Ontario (Finance), 2014 SCC 36 [John Doe], the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) provided a comprehensive explanation of a key provision of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, RSO 1990, c F.31 [FIPPA]. FIPPA is a mechanism that enables individuals to request disclosure of information from government officials (information on making a request can be found here). Within the statute, s. 13(1) permits the denial of a request “where the disclosure would reveal advice or recommendations of a public servant, any other person employed in the service of an institution or a consultant retained by an institution” (para 7). In this case,  s. 13(1)...