Canadian Court Limits Access to Ministerial Records

18 May 2011

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the daily agenda of the prime minister is not disclosable under the Access to Information Act.

Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault.criticized the ruling that such documents are not subject to the act, and called on the Conservatives, who control the government, to rewrite the law.

The court decided that four sets of ministerial records – including the agendas of Jean Chrétien when he was Liberal prime minister, and notes that documented a 1999 meeting between the defence minister, his deputy minister, and the chief of the defence staff – are not subject to the act.

“As the government rightly argues, such interpretation (of granting access) would dramatically expand the access-to-information regime in Canada, a result that can only be achieved by Parliament,” wrote Justice Louise Charron.

“The Court cannot disregard the actual words chosen by Parliament and rewrite the legislation to accord with its own view of how the legislative purpose could be better promoted.”

The government had suggested that opening up the documents of political ministers would compromise their ability to make decisions and do their jobs.

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