On November 11th of last year, the Manitoba Court of Kings Bench ordered the City of Winnipeg to release information sought by an FOI requester, rejecting a claim that the information constituted “personal information.”
The media requester sought access to records of breaches and penalties imposed on Winnipeg police officers for breach of police service regulations. The City recorded this information in quarterly reports without names or other direct identifiers, and routinely published the reports internally to approximately 2,000 civilian and police service members.
In answering the request, the City redacted information about penalties imposed for each violation (identified only by regulation number) under the “unjustified invasion of personal privacy” exemption. It claimed that to include penalty information would render the information personal information, the disclosure of which constituted an unjustified invasion of personal privacy. Here is the City’s re-identification risk argument:
The Court rejected this argument and found that the information was not personal information based on the well-established reasonable expectations test – a test that asks whether a proposed disclosure, in conjunction with other available information, could reasonably be expected to identify an individual. Notably, the court held that this standard imposes the same evidentiary burden articulated by the Supreme Court of Canada in Merck Frosst – a burden that requires proof of a non-speculative event considerably more likely than a mere possibility but not necessarily proof of an event that is likely.
Like most public sector access and privacy statutes, the Manitoba Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act does not shield personal information from the right of public access entirely – it only protects against unjustified invasions. The judge noted this, noted the City’s broad internal publication of the penalty information at issue and urged those charged with facilitating access to records to approach their task “with a healthy dose of common sense.”
Annable (CBC) v. City of Winnipeg, 2022 MBKB 222 (CanLII).
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