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Scanned, Internet down load or retyped copy.  If there are errors, please e-mail me with corrections:
The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA)

Submission to Appeal - Inquiry   M-9500118

Join  the  2003  FOI  Campaign
Opening comments:  More at the end.

The double spacing of  most of this submission is as it was submitted.

"We submit that this claim, on the part of the City, lacks credibility." - How sweet it is to have the written opinion of a lawyer regarding the claims (or as I would say lies!), by the City of Mississauga.  This is not the only time a lawyer has explained why the City was in the wrong or the Information and Privacy Commissioner Office but it is in writing.

Canadian Environmental Law Association was outstanding in that they bent their rules to make a submission on this very important issue as they agreed with me that it held great potential granting fast and cost effective access to government records.  A key factor in trying to save the environment and most other democratic activities.  However, to pursue this matter in court would have meant a very costly court case and the funds were just not there, because of that the City & the IPC do do whatever they cared to do, be as wrong, be as evil as they felt like, knowing we could no fight back!

So remember when you read all the Orders from the IPC putting me down and degrading my reasoning as to why or how I should be allowed access to City records to help our community save the Cawthra Bush.  As these pages clearly show my reasoning was sound but no money for to buy justice in court, was really the issue.

What is most upsetting is that I can find no evidence the IPC ever considered this 12 page submission and a 12 page submission from a lawyer is not cheap!  What I do find is the IPC doing everything it can to avoid granting the kind of access to government records that my methods would allow.  Clearly the IPC wants to avoid that.  Also, a newspaper article years later show how the IPC took the City of Toronto to court, to block access the City was granting to its computer records in a way that made it easier for the requester to use the records.  I say there is a pattern to the IPC's efforts.

Quick links to sections

NOTICE OF INQUIRY  -  For Appeal M-9500118





a.  Marchand v. Manitoba [1990] 74  D.L.R. (4th) 186

b.  Order 50 RE: MINISTRY OF LABOUR, Information and Privacy

***  "We submit that this claim, on the part of the City, lacks credibility."  ***






For the Canadian Environmental Law Association

Canadian Environmental Law Association
L'Association canadienne du droit de l'environnement
517 College Street, Suite 401,
Toronto, Ontario M6G 4A2
Telephone (416) 960-2284     Fax (416) 960-9392


January 2, 1996

Mr. Walter Richardson
Appeals Officer
Information and Privacy Commission
80 Bloor Street West
Suite 1700
Toronto, Ontario
M5S 2V1

Dear Mr. Richardson:

Re: Appeal of Donald Barber, No. M-9500118

Attached are our submissions on the appeal.

Yours truly,


Michelle Swenarchuk
Executive Director



APPEAL NO. M-9500118.

SUBMITTED TO:    Mr. Walter Richardson
                                    Appeals Officer
                                    Information and Privacy Commission
                                    80 Bloor Street West
                                    Suite 1700
                                    Toronto, Ontario
                                    M5S 2V1


The ARIS (Active Records Index System) index for EC. 12 of the City of



The Canadian Environmental Law Association is a public interest, non-profit

legal clinic, whose aim is to use legal means to advance environmental

protection and citizen participation in decisions related to environmental

concerns.  Access to information is a crucial tool for citizens engaged in

environmental protection initiatives.

We submit that the ARIS requested by Mr. Barber constitutes a "record" as

 defined in the Municipal Freedom of Information Act and that the City is

obliged to produce it.  In addition to the statutory obligation to produce,

there are also other important policy reasons why the ARIS index should be

available to all requesters.

 - 2 -


Section 2(1) of the Act defines record as:

         "record" means any record of information however recorded, whether
        in printed form, on film, by electronic means or otherwise, and includes,

        (a)       correspondence, a memorandum, a book, a plan, a map, a
                    drawing, a diagram, a pictorial or graphic work, a photograph, a
                    film, a microfilm, a sound recording, a videotape, a machine
                    readable record, any other documentary material, regardless of
                    physical form or characteristics, and any copy thereof, and

        (b)       subject to the regulations, any record that is capable of being
                    produced from a machine readable record under the control of
                    an institution by means of computer  hardware and software or
                    any other information storage equipment and technical  expertise
                    normally used by the institution; ("document")

 Ontario Regulation 823/90 provides that:

        (1)      A record capable of being produced from machine readable
                    records is not included in the definition of "record" for the
                    purposes of the Act if the process of producing it would
                    unreasonably interfere with the operation of the institution.


Caselaw exists regarding the proper interpretation of section 2(1), "record"

and Ontario Regulation 823/90.

a.  Marchand v. Manitoba [1990] 74  D.L.R. (4th) 186

In this case, the Manitoba court considered the definition of a record in the

Manitoba  Freedom of Information Act, whose definition of a record is

somewhat similar, and if anything, is not quite as broad as the applicable

Ontario legislation.  For example, it does not contain anything similar to

section 2(1)(b) re records that are capable of being produced from a

machine readable record.  The court held that the word "record" was

broadly defined in the Act, and that essentially

- 3 -

any recorded information is a record within the meaning assigned to that

word by the Act.  The court another said that every person has a right of

access to any record in the custody or under the control of a department of

the government, subject to the exemptions. In terms of the exemptions the

court stated that:

            "The sections in the Act providing for exemptions must be strictly
            interpreted. If access to a record is to be denied, the head of the
            department must demonstrate that the record in question comes
            squarely within the ambit of one of the exempting sections of the Act."

Therefore any "recorded information" constitutes a "record" and therefore

must be provided, unless the request comes within one of the exemption

sections.  In this case there are no exemption sections that would preclude

provision of the ARIS index.

b.   Order 50 RE: MINISTRY OF LABOUR, Information and Privacy

This Order dealt with the provincial Freedom of Information Act, whose

definition of record is the same as the Municipal Freedom of Information

Act.  The Order involved a request for various information that could be

categorized as follows:

1.  Information that was stored in the Ministry's computer database but the

specific report requested had not been generated.

2.  Information which was stored in the Ministry's database but a program

would have to be developed to generate the requested record.

3.  Information which was in manual format and would have to be compiled.

- 4 -

The institution's response was to provide the requester with fee estimates

for providing the information.  Their position was that none of the requested

records currently exist and that the Act did not impose any obligation on

them to create such records.  That being the case, the institution argued

that the Commission could not review their fees.  The Commission thus

looked at the issue of what duty is imposed on an institution when it

receives a request for information which exists in some recorded format

within the institution but not in the format asked for by the requester.

According to Commissioner Linden, the definition of "record" in section 2(1)

of the Act encompasses two types of recorded information.  The first, under

paragraph (a), is material which currently exists in some physical form.  The

second, under 'paragraph (b), is a record which does not currently exist but

is "...capable of being produced from a machine readable record...". It was

Commissioner Linden's view that the duty of the institution differs according

to which part of the definition of record applies.

Where the request is for information that currently exists in some physical

form, but in a format different from that requested, the institution has a

duty, under section 24, to identify and advise the requester of the existence

of those records.  However the institution is not required to organize this

material into the format requested.  The requester has a right to the "raw

material", which they can then organize themselves.

- 5 -

However where the request is for information that is capable of being

produced from a machine readable record, the Act  requires  the institution

to create this type of record, subject to the regulations.  This is where

Regulation 823/90 comes into play, which provides that the institution does

not have to produce the record if it would unreasonably interfere with the

operations of the institution.  According to Commissioner Linden, what

constitutes an "unreasonable interference" is a matter which must be

considered on a case-by-case basis. Commissioner Linden's conclusion

was that:

        "subject to the regulation, the Act does place an obligation on an
        institution to locate information and produce it in the requested format
        whenever that information can be produced from an existing machine
        readable record, and providing that to do so will not unreasonably
        interfere with the operation of the institution."

It is our submission that Mr. Barber is requesting information that can be

produced from an existing machine readable record, and therefore the City

has a duty to produce it, in the requested format.  The only question is

whether the City is excused from this duty because it would unreasonably

interfere with the operation of the institution.  However it is reasonable to

expect that an institution would have some index method for keeping track

of their records.  In fact the notice of appeal makes note that "ARIS" is an

acronym for the computer system index the city uses to control its records.

Given that the city already has a computer index system, it is difficult to see

how this request would unreasonably interfere with the operation of the


The Notice of Appeal does say that the City took three hours to produce a

one page document with a list of all the files contained within the requested

ARIS index file number. However it

- 6 -

says that the City produced this from the raw data.  If by "raw data" they

mean they could not generate the report by computer, then they still have

an obligation to release the raw data to Mr. Barber.  If on the other hand,

they had to create a program to generate the report, once this program is

created, the processing time should in theory significantly decrease.

Furthermore, Mr. Barber has indicated that at one point in his search for

records, a staff member showed him a binder which contained ARIS

printouts listing all the files in that office.  Mr. Barber was not allowed to see

the printouts but the staff member explained the system to him.  Therefore it

appears that the City already does generate the type of report that Mr.

Barber is looking for.  If they already generate such a report, compliance

with his request clearly would not unreasonably interfere with the operation

of the institution. We submit that this claim, on the part of the City, lacks credibility.


This Order also considered the definition of "record" under the Municipal

Freedom of Information Act.  In this case the requester was seeking access

to a computerized file of a report on race relations.  The Commissioner held

that "files in a hard disk drive constitute a machine readable record in the

sense contemplated by section 2 of the Act.  A copy of those files on

diskette is also a record that is capable of being produced from a machine

readable record."  Therefore if the index exists on the City's hard drive, or is

capable of being generated, then it seems the City would have to produce

it, subject only to Ontario Regulation 823/90.

- 7 -


Several orders which have dealt with "indexes" to be produced.  Although

neither was identical to the index which Mr Barber is requesting, it is

relevant to note that institutions have produced other types of indexes.


the institution in question provided a complete and up to date index of all

the decisions that the Mines & Lands Commissioner's department has dealt

with since 1973 in regards to appeals under the Conservation Authorities

Act, Section 27, part 2c.


discussed practices, established by the Commissioner's office, for

government institutions which are designed to give requesters as much

information as possible about disputed records without disclosing their

contents.  The example given was that institutions, based on the

Commissioner's office interpretation of section 29(1)(b) (of the Provincial

Freedom of Information Act, which is section 22(1)(b) of the Municipal

Freedom of Information Act), are required to provide an index of records to

requesters to whom they deny access.  The index is to provide a general

description of the records along with the exemptions claimed and reasons

why the records are not being released.  Therefore it seems that

institutions can, and are required to, provide "indexes" of some sort or


- 8 -

We note that the City relies on Section 25(b) of the Act, which requires that

it make available a list of the general classes or types of records in the

custody or control of the institution;   The City argues that having done so, it

is not required to provide the further information requested by Mr. Barber.

We submit that such an interpretation of Section 25 would defeat the entire

purpose of the Municipal Freedom of Information Act.  That requirement in

Section 25 occurs in the context of other requirements in the Section,

clearly designed to provide the public with initial basic information from

which potential requesters can formulate requests, and forward them to

the proper individual for response.  The list required by Section 25(b) is

meant to assist the public, not to act as a barrier to further, more detailed

information disclosure. It provides a general introduction to records within

the institution, not a complete listing of what is available on any specific

subject.  The broad purpose section of the Act, the broad definition of

"record" in the Act, and the Orders cited above all support the conclusion

that the City's attempted reliance on Section 25(b) to deny access is

improper and contrary to the Act.


In this Order, Commissioner Linden dealt with the creation of a record.  The

institution claimed that, in the absence of a record relating to the request, it

had no legal obligation to "create a record." Commissioner Linden made

note of the fact that while institutions are not obliged to create a record, in

some circumstances the creation of a record is not only consistent with the

spirit of the Act but also enhances one of the major purposes of the act,

that is "to provide a right

- 9 -

of access to information under the control of the institutions."

[Section 1 (a)] He considered that the institution's handling of the requests

was not in keeping with the spirit of the Act.

In Mr. Barber's case, it appears that the ARIS index already exists, therefore

the City would not be "creating" a record. Furthermore Commissioner

Linden, in Order 50, stated that an institution is required to "create" a

record where it is capable of being produced from a machine readable

record. In the alternative, even if it is found that the City does not have an

obligation to "create" the record for Mr. Barber, we urge that they do so in

keeping with the spirit and purposes of the Act.


Aside from the City's obligation to produce a "record", there are other

persuasive reasons why it should produce the ARIS index for not only Mr.

Barber, but also future requesters.

First, there are the current requirements regarding burden of proof on the

parties when they dispute whether a record exists.  In ORDER  M-500

TORONTO BOARD OF EDUCATION, Inquiry Officer Jiwan noted that the

institution has to provide sufficient evidence to show that is has made a

reasonable effort to identify and locate records responsive to the request.

If an institution asserts that no further records exist, it bears the burden of

proving its position, although it does not have to prove with absolute

certainty that the records do not exist.  It seems that the ARIS index would

be an important piece of evidence in this regard. It would make it

- 10 -

easier for the institution to show both its efforts and that the record does

not exist, and it would be easier for the Commissioner to decide whether the

institution's efforts were in fact reasonable.

Furthermore, the index would also be of immense help to a requester.

Inquiry Officer Jiwan, in the same Order, stated that sections 36(1) and 37

of the Act place some obligation on the requester to provide as much

direction to the Board as possible as to where the records that he is

requesting may be located and/or to describe the records sought.

The relevant sections are:

        s36.-(1) Every individual has a right of access to,

        (a) any personal information about the individual contained in a
        personal information bank in the custody or under the control of an
        institution; and

        (b) any other personal information about the individual in the custody or
        under the control of an institution with respect to which the individual is
        able to provide sufficiently specific information to render it reasonably
        retrievable by the institution.

        s37.-(1) An individual seeking access to personal information about the
        individual shall make a request for access in writing to the institution
        that the individual believes has custody or control of the personal
        information and shall identify the personal information bank or
        otherwise identify the location of the personal information.

These sections deal with personal information, which is not what Mr. Barber

is seeking;  however they are relevant to the issue of the usefulness of the

ARIS index.  The index would be of great help to a person who is under an

obligation, under these sections, to provide the information.  Without the

index, a person may have a more difficult time in providing the necessary

information, and therefore may not be able to obtain the information they

are seeking.

 - 11 -

Furthermore, the proposed amendments to the Municipal Freedom of

Information Act, through Bill 26, place an even greater burden on the

requester.  Schedule K, section 20, amends section 39 of the Act by adding

a section that allows the Commissioner to dismiss an appeal if the notice of

appeal does not present a reasonable basis for concluding that the record

or the personal information to which the notice relates exists.  Without this

ARIS index it may be very difficult for the requester to provide enough

evidence to show that the record exists.  Given that the proposed

amendments will make it harder for a person to obtain information, an index

such as the one Mr. Barber is requesting seems essential and in keeping

with the purposes of the Act.

The ARIS index is also important with regards to the issue of the fees

charged to the requester.  Under the current Act, access to the public, the

overall purpose of the Act, is improved when the information can be

generated at the least possible cost; access to an index facilitates lower

cost searches.

The issue of fees will become even more important under proposed

changes to the Act in Schedule K, section 23 of Bill 26, which provides that

fees will be required for, among other things, the costs of every hour of

manual search required to locate a record.  While a requester will also likely

be charged a fee if the city has to generate a computer report, it is

reasonable to expect that the fee would be much lower than a fee for hours

of manual searching.  This way a report can be generated and then the

requester can do his/her own search for the records, and pinpoint the

exact location, thereby eliminating the manual search fees. It would also

benefit the institution by saving them many hours of manpower.

- 12 -


We submit that given the both the Courts' and the Commission's

interpretation of a "record", the City is required to produce the ARIS index

requested by Mr. Barber.  It is information capable of being produced from

machine readable records and its production would not unreasonably

interfere with the operation of the institution.  Production of the ARIS index

is also in keeping with the statutory purpose and spirit of the Act.  This index

would be of help to both institutions and requesters alike.

Respectfully submitted, this 2nd day of January 1996.

Michelle Swenarchuk
Canadian Environmental Law Association



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