By Ryan McGreal
Published April 02, 2012
The office of Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner warns that a proposed gag rule against integrity complainants talking to the media may go against the Municipal Act.
Last week, the City of Hamilton's Transparency and Accountability Subcommittee voted to approve a new rule that a resident making a complaint to the city's integrity commissioner is not allowed to speak publicly about the complaint while it is being investigated.
Under this rule, if the complainant does speak to the media, the complaint will be automatically dismissed.
RTH contacted Dr. Ann Cavoukian, Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner, for a comment on this policy. Here is the response from David S. Goodis, Director of Legal and General Counsel for Cavoukian's office.
Under our three statutes, the IPC does not have a prohibition against complainants or appellants speaking to the media. In our view, such a prohibition could be seen as an unwarranted impediment to the public's access to the Integrity Commissioner's complaint process under the Municipal Act, 2001. Further, it is arguable that this rule is inconsistent with the principle of transparency in tribunal proceedings.
RTH also contacted Andre Marin, Ombudsman of Ontario. Here is Mr. Marin's response:
I am well aware of these developments. As my mandate over municipalities extends only to investigating complaints about cities violating the open meetings provisions of the Municipal Act, I have decided to refrain from commenting on the new rule.
As far as complainants turning to our office for relief for matters that fall within our mandate, I can assure you that they enjoy the protection of full confidentiality, guaranteed under our legislation, or they may seek to waive that right and speak publicly about their complaints.
The new integrity complaint policy still needs to be approved by Council before it comes into effect.
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