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McGill rescinds ATI appeal, will not pursue discretionary powers

McGill has withdrawn from their pursuit of the jurisdiction to disregard Access-to-Information (ATI) requests, according to a statement released Jan. 24.

The settlement concludes a legal dispute that began in December 2012, when the university sought the right to ignore ATI requests at its discretion due to an increased volume of requests.

The Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec rejected McGill’s initial motion to gain discretionary control at a preliminary hearing last October. The university then announced its intent to appeal  the decision to the Québec Court of Appeal, before negotiations for a settlement officially began on Nov. 27.

The withdrawal of the motion is part of the settlement, in which McGill also agrees to set a timetable for responding to some of the contested ATI requests, with the first set of responses due on Feb. 28.

“Under this agreement, McGill has undertaken to respond to a number of redrafted requests within a negotiated time-frame,” the joint statement reads. “On their part, the students and community members will withdraw certain requests [that were too vague]  but keep their right to file requests for review before the Commission d’accès à l’information of McGill’s responses to the redrafted requests.”

Kevin Paul, one of the students who submitted ATI requests and was named in the settlement, said he believes  McGill’s withdrawal came from a belief that courts would reject its appeal.

“We see the initial motion as a politically motivated effort to block ATI requests from an indeterminate group of people for an indeterminate period of time,’’ Paul said. “McGill has recognized that not only would it not win in courts on this, but that its efforts are bad for public relations.”

Paul said the defendants would now look to McGill to disclose the information they requested over one year ago.

“While we’re happy that McGill has withdrawn its motion, ultimately what we want is an actual disclosure of information,” Paul said. “We want documents in our hands that are neither incomplete nor redacted in unacceptable ways.”

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