Order making powers for the Information Commissioner

Proposal

Give the Information Commissioner the power to order the release of government information.

Background

The Information Commissioner of Canada does not currently have the power to order the release of government information.

Under the Access to Information Act, the Information Commissioner plays the role of an ombudsperson, with powers to investigate complaints and make recommendations to government institutions.

If an institution does not follow the Commissioner's recommendation, the Commissioner can, with the consent of the requestor, apply to the Federal Court of Canada for review of the institution's refusal to disclose requested information.

The Federal Court can order the information to be released.

Commissioners in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Quebec have the power to order the release of government information.

Internationally, some Westminster-style parliamentary democracies (such as Canada) use an ombudsperson model; others use an order-making model.

Some jurisdictions have combined order-making powers with the principle of ministerial responsibility. They do this by providing for a ministerial or Cabinet override of a Commissioner's order to release government information. In other models, the government can ask for review by a court if it disagrees with a Commissioner's order to release government information.

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