Discretion for frivolous and vexatious requests


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Give government institutions and the Information Commissioner authority to decline to process requests or complaints that are frivolous or vexatious.


Currently under the Access to Information Act, there are no limits on the number of requests that an individual can submit, nor on how broad a request can be. 

There are examples of individuals making hundreds of requests in a year to the same operational area of a government institution, or requesting all emails of a certain employee for a number of years.

Open government efforts seem unlikely to reduce the impact of requests of this nature.

Multiple requests from the same requestor and very broad requests can (whether intentionally or not) interfere with an institution's ability to do its other work. This can have a negative impact on an institution's resources and its ability to respond to other requests. 

In turn, over-demand can have a negative impact on the right of access of other requestors. It can also place a strain on public resources: in 2014-, the Government of Canada received 68,193 access to information requests and spent over $67 million in direct costs to administer the Access to Information Act.

These types of requests (sometimes called frivolous and vexatious requests) may not be consistent with the Act's purpose of strengthening the accountability of government to its citizens and furthering public debate in an open and democratic society.

Jurisdictions that grant institutions the right to decline to process "frivolous and vexatious" requests generally ensure careful oversight to ensure the authority is properly exercised. 

The legislation of British Columbia, Alberta, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador allow government institutions to decline to process "frivolous and vexatious" requests, subject to the prior approval of their provincial Information Commissioner.

In Manitoba and Ontario, institutions can directly decline to process such requests, with a right of appeal to their Commissioners. 

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