Thursday, April 23, 2009

Privacy Adjudicator Orders City of Ottawa to Issue New Decision Regarding Personal E-Mail Communications Between Ottawa CAS and City Solicitor


For Immediate Release

April 23, 2009

Re: Privacy Order MO-2408 Link

In February of 2007, John Dunn, Executive Director of the Foster Care Council of Canada filed with the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa a request for a list of their regular voting members in an attempt to advocate through them for youth in care to become members of their agency since memberships are currently limited to people over the age of 18, eliminating the possibility for youth in care to become members and have any form of oversight of the agency which makes life altering decisions regarding their lives.

The Society refused to provide the list of it's members, which is a Provincial Offence under section 307 (5) of the Corporations Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. c-38.

Dunn, knowing the Society's Vice-President Rick O'Connor now elected President of the agency worked for the City of Ottawa contacted O'Connor at work to ask if he, as a Board member would appeal to the agency not to commit the Offence but instead to provide the list in accordance with the law.

Unfortunately, O'Connor refused to do so, and in fact requested that Dunn cease and desist from communicating with him at his place of employment, the City of Ottawa.

Having given O'Connor a chance to comply with the law, Dunn then requested via a Municipal Freedom of Information Request, copies of all communications between O'Connor and the Society which took place using the City's electronic resources.

The City denied Dunn access to the e-mail communications basing their decision on their assertion that personal e-mails of a City employee are not in the "care and control" of the City.

Dunn appealed the decision of the City to the Information and Privacy Commissioner's Office of Ontario, and the IPC's adjudicator, Catherine Corban, after considering the appeal and all submissions made by both parties, ordered the City to issue a new decision letter to Dunn basing their new decision letter on the fact that the City in fact does have both "care" and "control" of the personal e-mails.

The city has to act as if the request by Dunn was accepted by the city as of the date of the appeal's order, April 09, 2009 therefore giving them 30 days to respond to Dunn's request as if it were just made on April 09, 2009.

Two weeks later, on Thursday April 23, 2009, Dunn contacted the City to ask for the status of the request and was told the City is now considering it's options in relation to the request and will respond by May 9, 2009 with their new decision.

Dunn hopes the City does not try to create or find a different reason to deny him copies of the three e-mails (6 pages) at issue, however he has stated that he believes they will attempt to drag this out as long as possible based on new grounds.

Updates will be posted to the Council's News Blog located at

The City has responded to Dunn's request with the following e-mail.

Mr. Dunn,

Your e-mail message to Rick O'Connor of today's date was forwarded to me. I am Legal Counsel at the City of Ottawa.

The City is presently reviewing Order MO-2048 (sic). The City will be making a decision with respect to its next steps regarding this Order shortly, and at the latest by the deadline noted in the Order, namely May 9th. You will be contacted with respect to those next steps as soon as possible.

Please note that since Mr. O'Connor is an affected third-party in this matter, he has not been and will not be involved in any aspect of the City's file in relation to this Order, or to the access request and appeal which are the subject of the Order. I would therefore ask that you refrain from contacting Mr. O'Connor in respect to these matters. Should you require any information from the City regarding your appeal or the Order, please either contact me in Legal Services at (613) 580-2424, ext. 21384, or Ms. Tammy Jelly in the City's ATIP Office, at ext. 20161.

Yours truly,

Valérie Bietlot
Legal Counsel / Conseillère juridique
Legal Services / Services juridiques
City of Ottawa / Ville d'Ottawa
110 Laurier Ave. West, 3rd floor, Ottawa ON K1P 1J1

Tel. (613) 580-2424 (x21384) / Fax (613) 560-1383


  1. Interesting to note the usage stats for the site ... someone (or a few someones) from RMOC has been monitoring the page with a frequency that one might consider neurotic.

  2. Yes, I have noticed that as well. However, at the same time, I have been keeping the Auditor of the City informed of the case periodically, and have sent notices to all city staff regarding the case and its potential importance to city staff who use email for personal use as this is the focus of the case. So it is possible that a party involved in this case is watching, however it could be anyone from city hall as well. That comes down to the actual IP I assume unless all outbound gateway IP's are identified as one IP? I could talk to the city to ask them how their IP's are setup.

    I know that the government of Ontario also visits frequently, however, I send notices to staff at the Ministry, MPP's and much more so you never know how or why they are visiting.. having said all that, your observation is still interesting.