Of the more than 1,500 pages delivered to the Algonquin Times in March in response to its Freedom of Information request, over 300 pages of text have been partially or completely redacted.
The request, made in January 2017 by then first-year journalism student Devyn Barrie, cost $930 to process and was paid for by the Students’ Association, which owns the newspaper. It took 14 months for the Times to get it from the college, and when it was received, there had been more than 500 individual redactions — or black-outs — made.
Not long after Barrie made the request in winter 2017, the college’s access coordinator and Vice President Finance Duane McNair advised the Times that some 40,000 related documents had been identified relating to the request, and quoted a fee of more than $88,000 to cover 2,860 hours of preparation. The Times subsequently amended its request to exclude emails made by college officials in order to reduce costs.
The justification for those black-outs most commonly cited within the documents refers to Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) section 18(1) which says: “A head may refuse to disclose a record that contains (c) information where the disclosure could reasonably be expected to prejudice the economic interests of an institution or the competitive position of an institution.” That declaration is made over 200 times.
Another justification, which is invoked over 100 times, is FIPPA section 13 which states: “A head may refuse to disclose a record where the disclosure would reveal advice or recommendations of a public servant, any other person employed in the service of an institution or a consultant retained by an institution.”
The redactions most often deleted specific monetary amounts. For example, pages 25 and 26 of the 2015-16 Jazan Campus Business Plan and Budget, which contains the pro forma summary and the statement of financial position, are almost entirely redacted.
These same redactions appear in all other years documents related to the Jazan campus budget.