Freedom of Information and Transparency Strategies for your Organization

This post was written prior to our January 2017 merger, under our previous firm name, MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman LLP.

Freedom of information legislation in Saskatchewan requires a “balancing act” to ensure that legal obligations are respected, confidential and proprietary information is protected, and communication and co-operation between public bodies and private entities is promoted.

Although only government institutions and local authorities are subject to freedom of information legislation in Saskatchewan, third parties’ records often become subject to this legislation through their interactions with public bodies. This means that public bodies and private entities often face similar issues relating to transparency, and that similar transparency strategies can be adopted by both to address such issues.

A well-developed transparency strategy can have a number of benefits for your organization, including reducing time and cost associated with responding to access requests and third party notifications, minimizing the risk of disclosing confidential or proprietary information, avoiding time and expense associated with proceedings to protect such information, and improving and avoiding harm to business relationships.

Developing a transparency strategy that works for your organization may include, among other considerations:

  • Obtaining buy-in from your organization’s business, procurement and executive teams.
  • Adopting a transparency strategy, including a transparency policy that is customized to your organization and related procedures.
  • Completing a high-level inventory of records within your organization and generally categorizing records (for example, records you intend to make proactively publicly available, records you intend to make publicly available in response to access requests, and records that will be treated as confidential).
  • Clearly communicating your transparency strategy and policy – both internally and externally.
  • Implementing and following your transparency policy.
  • Regularly reviewing and revising your transparency policy.
  • Incorporating language into procurement documents and contracts to support your transparency strategy.
  • Pursuing a common industry-wide policy to improve consistency (for example, within different health organizations, school boards, etc.).
  • Adding a transparency page to your organization’s website to share information about access requests, records you determine to proactively disclose, and information of general interest.

It is important to remember that regardless of your organization’s transparency strategy, any records in the control and possession of a public body remain subject to applicable freedom of information legislation. You can read more about freedom of information and third party information in our previous blog post: Freedom of Information and Third Party Information in Saskatchewan.

Organizations may wish to discuss their transparency strategy with legal counsel to ensure that such strategies and any associated policies and procedures are in compliance with legal requirements.