Privacy and Access
Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments are subject to freedom of information and privacy legislation. Although the legislation differs depending on the jurisdiction, there are certain overarching similarities. On the one hand, governments are required to protect the personal or confidential information of individuals in their possession. On the other hand, they are required to allow public access to information in their possession. Legislation in this area balances the general requirement that government must allow public access to information by providing discretionary exemptions and by stipulating circumstances where information must not be disclosed. Proceedings may arise where someone requests access to information in possession of the government and the government refuses to produce it, or where the government has or wishes to produce information of a confidential or personal nature.
Requests for access to information from governments can in some instances be an effective civil litigation tool. Disclosure of information to be used in aid of prosecuting or defending a civil claim can be secured through freedom of information requests, whether or not the government from which the information is requested is a party to the proceeding.