Ontario Court says applicant can’t circumvent statutory access procedure

On July 13th the Ontario Superior Court of Justice held that it did not have jurisdiction to order a federal government institution to produce a personnel file to a deceased employee’s estate.

The estate sought the file because it was trying to determine if the deceased had the mental capacity to designate an unknown third party as beneficiary under his pension plan. The Court’s decision that it lacked jurisdiction to order production is very qualified. It rested to some degree on the record filed, but the Court does hint that it lacked jurisdiction because the motion was for production of information that could be accessed via the federal Privacy Act. In any event, the Court said that, as a matter of discretion, it would not have granted an order that allows one to circumvent the Privacy Act: “Finally, it is apparent to me that even were there some sort of inherent right of this court to make the production order, I would not order it in the face of the clear process for obtaining production of private or personal information under the Privacy Act.”

MacDonald Estate v Department of National Defence, 2012 ONSC 4155 (CanLII).

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