Case Report – Federal Court addresses effect of requester’s death on a denied access request

On April 29th, the Federal Court ordered Correctional Services Canada to provide a requester’s personal information to the Elizabeth Fry Society on the basis of a consent she signed before she committed suicide.

The requester alleged mistreatment by CSC and sought the help of the Society. The Society made a request for access to personal information on her behalf pursuant to a consent that authorized disclosure to the Society. In the consent, the requester stated the disclosure was “for the purpose of assisting me.” The CSC failed to answer the request in time and was deemed to have refused it on August 17, 2009, about two months before the requester committed suicide.The CSC later denied the request to the Society and, in response to the Society’s application, claimed the Society had no standing as a result of the requester’s death.

The Court held that the Society continued to be authorized to act on the requester’s behalf after her death. It mentioned briefly that the purpose of the consent continued after her death, but its reasoning does not rest heavily on the language of the consent. It said, for example, “I conclude that the Act intended that an individual’s right to grant access to their personal information survives their death.” This finding allowed the Court to conclude that the Society had standing to file an application to the Federal Court as an “individual who has been refused access to personal information.” It is questionable whether this fact limits the judgement, but the Court did stress that the requester was alive and being represented by the Society on the date of the deemed refusal.

Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies v. Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), 2010 FC 470 (CanLII).

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