Investigations Disclosure Policy
Elections BC has a mandate to enforce the legislation we administer, including the Election Act, Recall and Initiative Act, and Local Elections Campaign Financing Act. Investigations are a tool we use to support enforcement. We consider a number of factors when deciding if information about an investigation should be disclosed to the public, including legislative provisions under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and other laws. This policy guides our disclosures when there is discretion within the law about when, how, and what information we provide.
Transparency is an important value for Elections BC. We are committed to providing British Columbians with information about our electoral process and the activities of our office. In sensitive cases like investigations, this value of transparency must be balanced with other important values, such as the need to ensure fairness, protect privacy, and preserve the integrity of investigations and the electoral process.
Comment on on-going investigations
Like most investigative bodies, Elections BC does not usually comment on ongoing investigations. This is to protect the individuals involved from undue harm and to protect the integrity of the investigation. Investigations have significant consequences for those involved, even if they do not result in charges or convictions, or find that the allegations in question are unfounded. Confidentiality is therefore vital to ensure a fair process.
We review every complaint we receive, but not all reviews result in an investigation. If a complaint does not result in an investigation, we will advise the complainant and tell them why an investigation will not be conducted.
We will confirm if we have received a complaint on a potential issue of non-compliance. We may confirm that an investigation is underway or that a report has been forwarded to crown counsel, if it is within the public interest to do so. When determining whether or not it is within the public interest to disclose certain information, the Chief Electoral Officer will consider:
- statutory requirements
- the need to protect privacy
- the need to ensure a fair investigative process
- the presumption of innocence that applies to the subject of the investigation,
- whether the release could jeopardize the fairness or integrity of an election, and
- the need to maintain public confidence in the electoral process
If we confirm that an investigation is underway, we may withhold details about the investigation, including but not limited to:
- the alleged issue of non-compliance
- information that may impact the integrity of the investigation (including the alleged issue of non-compliance and the identities of those involved)
- information that may harm the parties to the investigation, including the subject, complainant, and any witnesses
In some cases it may be within the public interest for us to proactively disclose information about an investigation. For example, we may proactively disclose information to clarify or correct rumours or misinformation. If an investigation concludes or reaches a milestone that it is within the public interest to share, we may disclose this information.
Comment on closed investigations
When an investigation is closed, we will inform the parties to the investigation (including the subject, complainant, and any witnesses) that the file has been closed, and advise them of any outcomes. Our general practice is to inform interested third parties that the investigation has been closed.
If an investigation results in an administrative monetary penalty, we will post information about the penalty here. Information about the outcome of other investigations may be made public at the discretion of the Chief Electoral Officer. Details that may be provided include the name of the subject, the scope of the review or investigation and its outcome. We will not provide details that could unduly compromise an individual’s privacy or compromise the integrity of the electoral process.