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ONTARIO: Police ordered to hand over specific grow-op addresses

Exact addresses in FOI request withheld by Greater Sudbury Police, citing privacy concerns
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SUDBURY - Greater Sudbury Police were wrong when they omitted the exact locations of 82 marijuana growing operations in Greater Sudbury, an adjudicator has ruled.

Police received the request two years ago for a list of all grow-ops on the force's radar, including full addresses, the date they were busted and the number of plants seized between August 2006 and August 2016.

In response, police released everything they were asked, except for the addresses of the grow-ops.

“During mediation, the police clarified that the information that has been withheld from the record consists of the property addresses of 82 marijuana grow operations,” the court transcript says. 

“The police advised that they notified 48 affected parties at those addresses pursuant to section 21 of the Act and, based on the affected parties’ responses, they decided to withhold the information.

“Eight affected parties responded to the Notice of Inquiry. All of them objected to the disclosure of the property address related to them. Twelve Notices of Inquiry were returned to this office indicating that the affected party no longer resides at that address. The remaining affected parties did not respond to the Notice of Inquiry.”

A police representative argued that privacy laws allowed them to not release information gathered as part of an investigation into a crime. But the adjudicator said the chart showing the location of the 82 grow-ops was a summary of “the outcome of a number of investigations into individual alleged grow operations.”

Since it was a summary and not part of an active investigation, the adjudicator ruled that defence can't be used.

However, before releasing the information, she had to determine whether it would constitute an unjust invasion of privacy. The factors to determine that include whether the information is highly sensitive, whether the harm it would cause outweighs the benefits to the public, and whether releasing the information would unjustly damage anyone's reputation.

“Having considered and weighed the considerations favouring disclosure of the property addresses against those which favour the protection of privacy of those individuals who may incidentally be identified by its disclosure, I find the balance to be tipped in favour of disclosure,” the adjudicator wrote. “My finding in this regard rests primarily on the factors weighing in favour of disclosure, specifically, the desirability of promoting public health and safety and the public scrutiny of police activities in relation to illegal grow operations. 

“I also believe that disclosure is important for the promotion of consumer protection and the informed choice in the purchase of goods and services.”

Read the full decision here

- Media

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