The Yukon Employees’ Union (YEU) asks the Public Service Commission to clarify which information they consider to be inaccurate. Our inquiries stem from an access to information request, and we have made the ATIPP result available on our website with a reference provided HERE.
It appears that the Public Service Commission, specifically the Director of Respectful Workplace, and with approval from the Public Service Commissioner, may have violated section 121(6) of the Act. This section pertains to altering, falsifying, concealing, or disposing of information or records with the intent to hinder or impede access to information or to obstruct the provision of an accurate and complete response to an access request.
Our understanding of the ATIPP Act is that it grants individuals the right to access information, with some limited mandatory and discretionary exclusions. However, public bodies are not allowed to selectively determine what can or cannot be released. The responsibility for this determination rests solely with the Head of the public body, with advice from their Designated Access Officer.
In the correct application of the process, all relevant Respectful Workplace Office documents should have been provided to the Designated Access Officer. This officer then assesses what is in scope, what must be withheld under mandatory exceptions, and what discretionary provisions may apply. Ultimately, the head of the public body reviews and approves the final request.
The toolkit emphasizes that provisions for withholding or excluding information in an ATIPP response should be applied narrowly, redacting only specific information where a mandatory or discretionary provision applies.
A public body should not remove, delete, or request records to be shredded unless they are out of scope. Even if some records are deemed out of scope, Designated Access Officers should retain them in a separate folder for adequacy of search. If in scope, the document should be provided in full and redacted entirely using a provision under s.71 to support the refusal.
The Designated Access Officer Toolkit provides clear guidelines on conducting an adequate search for records. The toolkit emphasizes providing all responsive records and not destroying or removing anything, even if it is transitory or sensitive. This ensures that the DAO can review all documents, remove any out-of-scope documents, and engage in discussions with the public body about any information that may fall under a discretionary provision or require a third-party consultation.
The toolkit underscores that all records must be provided within the required time frame. Designated Access Officers have 3-5 business days to collect documents and generate information to provide to the ATIPP Office for an Access to Information summary. This provision aims to ensure compliance with the law and prevent selective disclosure of information. The toolkit also recommends providing detailed reasons for redactions to promote transparency and prevent complaints to the Yukon Information and Privacy Commissioner.
In closing, there are legitimate reasons for withholding or redacting information. The lack of objection from Legal Services regarding the instruction from the Public Service Commissioner to destroy documents is concerning. Legal Services should have advised following the Act and restricting information under the appropriate provision.
Justin Lemphers, Vice President
Yukon Employees' Union