Adjudicator must review decision forcing TRU to turn over professor's emails, judge rules

Judge sends TRU FOI back

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ordered an adjudicator to revisit a freedom of information decision that would have required Thompson Rivers University to make public email correspondence from one of its professors — materials the university has so far refused to turn over.

The review came about after an unnamed member of the public filed a FOI request seeking all email correspondence between TRU’s Dr. Panagiotis Tsigaris and a colleague in Japan, Dr. Teixeira da Silva.

According to the review, Tsigaris objected to turning over the correspondence and TRU supported his objection, causing the request to be referred to a delegate of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for adjudication.

TRU argued the contents of the correspondence between Tsigaris and da Silva were “research information,” an exception to materials that can be subject to an FOI request.

The adjudicator placed the onus on TRU to prove all email correspondence between Tsigaris and da Silva constituted research information.

By relying on an affidavit from Tsigaris in which he describes the contents of the correspondence, the adjudicator ultimately concluded “TRU has failed to demonstrate that each of the requested records constitutes the research information of its faculty member.”

TRU was ordered to respond to the FOI request and hand over the documents to the member of the public who made the request.

In response, the university sought a judicial review of the adjudicator’s decision, in which B.C. Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Gomery ruled the decision should be kicked back to the adjudicator for further consideration.

“The adjudicator’s order is unreasonable in the particular circumstances of this case because it is manifestly over broad,” Gomery said in his review.

“Reading the decision as a whole, it is clear that at least some of the email correspondence between Dr. Tsigaris and Dr. da Silva qualifies for the research information exception.”

Gomery said the adjudicator wasn’t persuaded that all correspondence qualifies for the exception, but his order to hand over the documents would have applied to all regardless.

He said the order would result in the disclosure of research information to which the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act doesn’t apply.

In light of the review, the adjudicator or another delegate of the Information and Privacy Commissioner will reconsider and redetermine the decision.

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