Case Report – Court takes broad view of law enforcement “matter” in FOI case

On October 30th, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (Divisional Court) allowed a judicial review application of an Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario order to disclose a police firearms database.

Consistent with its prior jurisprudence, the IPC had held that the content of the database was not exempt from public access because it was assembled because of statutory recordkeeping requirements and not because of a specific and ongoing law enforcement “matter.” The Divisional Court held this was an error:

The plain and ordinary meaning of the word “matter” is very broad. We find that “matter” does not necessarily always have to apply to some specific on-going investigation or proceeding. The Adjudicator, in our view, erred in taking too narrow a view of the word “matter” in this particular case.

In an related application heard at the same time, the Court upheld the IPC’s finding that “law enforcement intelligence” is limited to activity in which information is collected in a covert manner to further the detection and prosecution of crime.

Ontario (Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services) v. Ontario (Information and Privacy Commissioner), [2007] O.J. No. 4233 (Ont. Div. Ct.) (QL).

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