Correctional Service of Canada initially denies access to full report in favour of giving the “gist”

In a complaint to our Office made in January 2011, a complainant alleged that Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) had denied him access to a copy of a report regarding his treatment and supervision. Some two months after making the access request in 2010, the complainant received a three page report containing two findings. In conversation with the report’s writer, however, the complainant became aware that the report was in fact 10 pages long, holding 14 findings. Our investigation revealed that indeed, the official report was 10 pages.

CSC officials explained that the report was based on informal interviews and so it was decided that the more detailed report should be withheld in place of a condensed document providing the “gist.”

The abbreviated version, in our view, was a misrepresentation of the information. The manner in which the requested information was processed by CSC’s Access to Information and Privacy Office in response to the complainant’s request was contrary to CSC’s responsibility to identify all relevant information that existed at the time his request was received and to process that information in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

After lengthy negotiations, a copy of the full report was provided to the complainant with some personal information of other parties withheld. CSC also agreed, at our request, to undertake a review into how the access request was handled along with communicating to staff about their obligations under the Privacy Act, including a presentation to executives underscoring the important role the organisation plays in ensuring privacy rights.

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