Investigation Concludes Public Body Did Not Destroy Records in an Attempt to Evade Access Request

February 24, 2000

Information and Privacy Commissioner Bob Clark publicly released  Investigation Report 99-IR-004 today. The report concludes an investigation to determine whether the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Schools (the “Public Body”) destroyed records in an attempt to evade access requests.

Section 86(1)(e) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the “FOIP Act”) states a person must not willfully destroy any records with the intent to evade a request for access to the records. Under section 86(2), a person who commits such an offence would be liable to a fine of not more than $10,000.

On January 11, 2000, this Office was informed that some records relating to an access request were destroyed. The records at issue were elementary grade unit tests that had been written and marked.

The investigation concluded that the destruction of the unit tests was not willful, and it was not with the intent to evade a request for access. The investigation found that there was some uncertainty as to whether the access request constituted a formal access application under the FOIP Act. In addition, there was no board or school policy regarding the retention and disposal of completed tests. The decision to dispose of tests was left with the individual teacher. The tests were available during parent-teacher interviews, and were destroyed subsequently, in accordance with the Teacher’s usual practice.

The investigation made the following recommendations to the Public Body:

  1. The Public Body should develop procedures on how access applications under the FOIP Act would be processed. These procedures should be communicated to teachers, principals and front line staff. The procedures should also be available to the public upon request.
  2. Applications for access under the FOIP Act should be forwarded immediately to the Public Body’s FOIP Coordinator for processing in accordance with the timelines and provisions set out in Part 1 of the FOIP Act.
  3. The Public Body should develop a policy regarding the retention, disposal and release of completed tests in accordance with the provisions of the FOIP Act. The policy should be clearly communicated to principals and teachers.
  4. The Public Body should educate and train its employees on the FOIP Act through a variety of means including training sessions, presentations, established policies and procedures, etc.