Nova Scotia

Cape Breton Regional Police Service chastised by province's privacy commissioner

Nova Scotia's information and privacy commissioner is concerned after Cape Breton Regional Police failed to respond to a freedom of information request in August.

Police say they are still working on response after 'administrative error'

Nova Scotia information and privacy commissioner Tricia Ralph is concerned over the Cape Breton Regional Police Service's lack of response to an applicant seeking records. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

Nova Scotia's information and privacy commissioner has rebuked the Cape Breton Regional Police Service for ignoring a freedom of information request.

In a ruling issued Nov. 24, commissioner Tricia Ralph said the force failed to respond to an applicant in August and subsequently failed to provide documents to the commissioner's office.

The applicant, who is not identified, had been seeking records on her own interactions with the force.

"There is little analysis to be undertaken here," Ralph wrote in her decision.

"The law is crystal clear. The police [service] is required to issue a decision to the applicant within 30 days unless a time extension is taken, which was not done. This is concerning."

The police did respond to the commissioner's office confirming its receipt of the applicant's initial access to information request and acknowledged it was being processed.

The police service said third parties were being notified "but provided no indication of a timeline of when it would respond to the applicant," Ralph said.

Violating the Municipal Government Act

The commissioner said police were in violation of the Municipal Government Act, which covers freedom of information requests, and recommended police issue a decision to the applicant within another 30 days.

The commissioner does not have the power to enforce recommendations.

The police would not do an interview.

But in an email on Tuesday, spokeswoman Desiree Magnus said there was an administrative error due to staffing vacancies and a response to the application from August is forthcoming.

The commissioner's office said Ralph does not comment on review reports because they are open files.

However, Ralph said in the decision that reviews on "deemed refusals" such as the one done on the Cape Breton police are "generally resolved in a timely and efficient manner ... usually with one telephone call to the municipality, and in almost all instances, within 15 days or less."

According to the commissioner's office, 34 out of 202 reviews in 2020-21 involved issues that were deemed a refusal, so the issue is not uncommon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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