BC public bodies ignore duty to release information on public health and environment

FIPA, along with the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Victoria (ELC), today announces the release of our latest submission to the Information and Privacy Commissioner. Outlining six cases where the public was not told about potentially hazardous situations, the submission requests an investigation into the disregard of Section 25 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) by government bodies.

Section 25 of the Act requires public bodies to release information about risks to the environment and public health or safety even if no FOI request has been made. “Unfortunately,” says FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek, “the ELC study shows a disturbing pattern of public bodies failing to live up to these legal requirements.”

The submission highlights several failures to warn the public, including:

Ministry of Environment failed to warm residents that the Oliver dam was in dangerously poor condition, despite knowing this for more than thirty years. Unfortunately, the dam collapsed before this information was made public.

The Ministry of Agriculture failed to disclose data about sea lice concentrations at fish farms during the collapse of the pink salmon in 2002-2003. The information was only made public years later when the Commissioner ordered it released after a FOI request.

The BC Centre for Disease Control and the Provincial Health Services Authority withheld information showing that the incidence of Lyme disease in BC was far higher than officially reported.

The full submission can be downloaded from our library. The press release, including comments from and contact information for the ELC and FIPA, can be found here.

Also see Stephen Hume’s coverage of the submission in the Vancouver Sun.