Thursday, October 29, 2015

Supreme Court to hear important case about legal privilege and access to information/privacy laws

This morning, the Supreme Court granted leave to appeal the Alberta Court of Appeal decision in University of Calgary v JR, 2015 ABCA 118.

In a nutshell, this will be a revisiting of Blood Tribe, but in the context of the provincial access to information laws that govern public bodies and government agencies.

Here’s the summary of the issue in appeal from the SCC website:

Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta v. Board of Governors of the University of Calgary

(Alberta) (Civil) (By Leave)

Keywords Privacy - Access to information.


Case summaries are prepared by the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada (Law Branch) for information purposes only.

Privacy — Access to information — What words must a statute employ to empower a tribunal to review records to determine whether a claim of privilege is valid?

In the course of a wrongful dismissal suit by an individual against the respondent University, the University asserted solicitor-client privilege over certain material. The individual made an access to information request under s. 7 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. F-25, seeking certain records about her in the University’s possession. The University provided some disclosure, but claimed solicitor-client privilege over some of the requested material. The Commissioner’s delegate eventually directed the University to the Commissioner’s “Solicitor-Client Privilege Adjudication Protocol”. When the University did not comply, the delegate issued a “notice to produce records” under s. 56(3) of the Act. It reads, in part, “[t]he Commissioner may require any record to be produced to the Commissioner and may examine any information in a record… [d]espite any other enactment or any privilege of the law of evidence”. The delegate indicated in an accompanying letter that the purpose of the notice was to enable him to determine whether solicitor-client privilege had been properly asserted because the University had not provided sufficient evidence to allow him to make that determination. The University sought judicial review of the delegate’s decision to issue the notice to produce. The Law Society of Alberta was granted intervener status at the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Court of Appeal. The application for judicial review was dismissed, and the subsequent appeal was allowed.

In the same batch of leave applications, the Court dismissed leave to appeal from the Ontario decision of Hopkins v. Kay, 2015 ONCA 112. In that Case, the Ontario Court of Appeal declined to throw out a class action brought against a health authority which had argued that the provinces Personal Health Information Protection Act was a complete code which ousts claims for intrusion upon seclusion.

No comments: