FIPA submitted multiple Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the BC government this fall regarding the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the public engagements held in the summer of 2021. Government requested extensions for all of them. That pushed release for some until after the end of session.
We pushed back on this one and having received the release package for a key request, we can see why government would have preferred to delay.
The communications plans for the BC government engagement on the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act features redactions of over 2/3rds of the pages (91 of 135), The original release features ‘white space’ redactions. We went back and replaced them with black-line redactions so that the sheer amount of information withheld by government was made visible. We also used optical character recognition to make the document keyword searchable, and you can find it here.
What the Ministry released shows the following:
The Government acted in a disingenuous manner in its consolations. We do not trust them to uphold their commitments or act in a trustworthy manner based on these events.
Bill 22 will become the new law of the land and we will be working to ensure that the Special Legislative Committee receives clear and diverse public input on the priorities of British Columbians that lower barriers to access public information.
Here is the order of events that gave rise to this release.
On June 15th, when Citizens’ Services undertook their public engagement in the summer we were quick to point out the failed methodology and false equivalencies it attempted to create. Their lack of effort to promote or encourage public submission was likewise concerning given this engagement was likely to inform Ministry submission to the Special Legislative Committee which had just been reconstituted despite delays.
That prompted us to submit the following FOI request on August 25th.
Despite the legislated time frame for responses to FOI requests, an extension was requested on October 15th. We agreed to this request, on the good-faith understanding that the volume of work was high.
Bill 22 was introduced on October 18th.
On November 19th they requested another extension. This time we didn’t agree.
On November 23rd they released the records, with extensive white-space or negative redactions. This sort of redaction may save on printer toner, but we find that blacked-out pages paint a more accurate picture of what is being withheld. See Access in the Academy p. 39. for more on this.