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McGill seeks to appeal ATI commission decision

McGill has filed an appeal to an Oct. 7 ruling made by the Commission d’accès à l’information, a decision that denied the university’s request for the ability to deny future Access to Information (ATI) requests at its discretion. The Quebec Court of Appeal will announce whether they accept the motion at a hearing on Dec. 4.

Last December, McGill filed a motion asking for the discretionary power to deny ATI requests that the university deemed “overly broad” or “frivolous.” McGill argued that an increase in ATI requests over the last year were causing the university financial strain and reducing efficiency.

“Following last week’s decision, McGill had a deadline of 10 days to file a motion which seeks permission to appeal that decision,” said Stephen Strople Secretary-General of the university. “This is part of the procedure, and we met that deadline.”

Kevin Paul, a McGill law student and respondent in the case, said he had expected McGill to file an appeal.

“I’m not surprised given that we already knew that McGill was very intensely pursuing the authority to deny future ATI requests,” Paul said.

Paul also emphasized that students should question the funds the administration is spending on the case.

“Students should really be asking how much money the administration is going to be spending on legal fees on this case,” he said. “This [appeal] adds dozens of hours to the lawyers’ fees […] and this is at a time of supposed austerity budget cuts and underfunding.”

Isaac Stethem, a masters student in political science and another respondent in the case, said these developments in the case place more financial strain on the students involved. He said respondents have so far been supported by donations.

“We, as students, are in a situation where it is very difficult for us to take on that kind of fight,” Stethem said. “I think that may well be the case that McGill assumes—that students, being people who generally don’t have the kinds of resources to deal with this kind of legal case, would just let things go and it would be much easier for them.” Regardless of legal fees, Paul said the respondents plan to move forward and contest the appeal.

In addition, McGill’s request to deny specific requests from 19 McGill students and alumni is ongoing, and will be decided through a mediation process that is expected to begin on Nov. 27.

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