RCMP charges fee for traffic analysis report

A British Columbia man asked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for a copy of a traffic analysis report prepared following an investigation of a traffic accident in which he was involved. The report attempted to reconstruct the circumstances surrounding the accident, and the man wanted to use it to support a civil claim. When he requested a copy of this report informally from the RCMP detachment where it was prepared, he was told there was a $500 fee. He then formally requested it under the Privacy Act but was refused on the basis that it was exempted under section 22(1)(a) of the Act. Section 22(1)(a) allows an investigative body such as the RCMP to deny access to information about a lawful investigation that is less than 20 years old. In his letter of complaint, the man correctly asked how the information could be available if he paid the $500 fee but not under the Privacy Act, to which no fees apply.

I determined that the RCMP detachment's response to the informal request was based on an established fee schedule. When the Privacy Act request was received at the RCMP's Access to Information and Privacy Unit in Ottawa, it confirmed that the accident was still under investigation. The RCMP routinely refuses access to information related to ongoing investigations. The unit subsequently informed the complainant that the report was exempted in its entirety under section 22(1)(a) of the Act.

However, upon further inquiries, I learned that in August 2000 the RCMP had issued a bulletin to all detachments in British Columbia that no fee should be collected for these reports. This decision followed a 1998 Supreme Court of British Columbia ruling in a case against the RCMP as the municipal police force under contract to the province. The Court ruled that the fee charged by the RCMP for a traffic analysis report was in essence a tax disguised as a user fee, and therefore was without any legislative authority.

As a result of our intervention, the RCMP provided the man with his own personal information in the report, which was all he was entitled to receive under the Privacy Act.

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