On November 30th, the Federal Court dismissed a federal Access to Information Act application about the application of the solicitor-client privilege exemption. Notably, Montigny J. made the following comment about the confidentiality of draft documents:
The Supreme Court also held in Blank, supra, that there is often a potential for overlap of legal advice privilege and litigation privilege in the litigation context. Legal advice privilege may continue to apply to material to which litigation privilege no longer attaches (Blank, at para. 49). I have found that there are several examples of this kind of overlap in the case at bar. This is true, in particular, of draft court documents or submissions. These draft documents remain protected by legal advice privilege under s. 23 of the Act even though the final version of these documents may have been released once the litigation privilege that applied to them had come to an end. Draft court documents, while being drafted, represent an interchange between solicitor and client, wherein the solicitor provides the client with direction or options as to the legal position to be taken in pending litigation. The client, in turn, comments on that legal advice, provides further instructions, and so forth. Draft court documents and submissions are, by their very nature, intended to be confidential. It is only the final version that is filed with, or submitted to, the court that is not so intended. The draft court documents or submissions clearly satisfy the three criteria set out in Solosky, supra, for legal advice privilege.
This reasoning has general significance to the law of solicitor-client privilege. It is also relevant to exemptions such as the government advice exemption in Ontario freedom of information legislation. The IPC/Ontario, I believe, has taken the position that draft records do not reveal “advice” and are therefore not exempt from public access.