Alberta OIPC lacks power to compel production to resolve solicitor-client privilege appeals

13 Apr

On April 2nd, the Court of Appeal of Alberta held that the Alberta Freedom of Information and protection of Privacy Act does not give the Alberta OIPC the power to compel the production of records over which a public body has asserted solicitor-client privilege.

The Court considered the power granted by the following provision:

Despite any other enactment or any privilege of the law of evidence, a public body must produce to the Commissioner within 10 days any record or a copy of any record required under subsection … (2).

It held that this language was not clear, unequivocal and ambiguous enough to overcome the presumption against abrogation of solicitor-client privilege. The ratio, at paragraph 48, is very clear and simple: “This [authorization of infringement] requires specific reference to solicitor-client privilege.”

Also of significance, the Court held that the chambers judge (below) erred by construing provision according to “modern approach,” which it said cannot be reconciled with the rule of strict construction established by the Supreme Court of Canada in Blood Tribe. The Court allowed the appeal and ordered the OIPC to pay the institution’s costs.

University of Calgary v JR, 2015 ABCA 118.

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