Another Procedural Order Issued in Faculty E-Mail Case

On June 21st the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench issued a procedural order related to two significant judicial review applications. The matter that underlies both applications is about an FOI request for e-mail communications between a University of Alberta faculty member and a selection committee of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

The university brought an application to quash a decision in which the OIPC found that the e-mails sought by the requester were under its custody or control. The Association of Academic Staff of the University of Alberta brought its own application, and claimed it ought to have been given notice and standing by the OIPC. Over the university and OIPC’s objection, the Court allowed the association’s application to proceed based on the association’s limited but very significant procedural ground. Later, in February of this year, the Court held that the two applications should be heard consecutively, with the association’s application proceeding first.

In this most recent order, the Court allowed allowed the association to intervene in the university’s judicial review application, which unlike the association’s own application, challenges the substantive basis for the OIPC’s custody or control finding. The association argued that it could provide input on “the true nature of emails within the context of the relationship between the UofA and the staff association.” The Court ordered that the association’s submissions would be limited to the interpretation of the faculty agreement and “its expertise and insight as to the University-academic employment relationship, the effect academic freedom has on that relationship and documents created by faculty members, and the unique nature of committee work.”

University of Alberta v. Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner), 2011 ABQB 389 (CanLII).

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