BC FIPA has released a study on the BC Government’s response to freedom of information (FOI) requests over the past five years.
The study titled “Access Denied” reveals many shortcomings in the administration of the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act (FIPPA).
Results indicate that response times for information requests are often in excess of legal timelines; that the Corporate Requests Tracking System (CRTS), described as “the most sophisticated FOI tracking system of any government in North America”), is used to flag the requests of particular user groups, based on political sensitivity; that these distinctions can lead to longer response times; and that this discrimination affects the outcomes of requests.
Public use of FIPPA has declined over a five-year period, in particular requests made by individual users. The main reason for this decline is growing disenchantment of FOI requesters with a process that is increasingly fraught with government resistance, evasion and delay.
BC also lags behind other provinces in supporting FOI infrastructure. In particular, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has been undermined by a double blow of funding cuts and assignment of increasing responsibilities. During the same period, funding for discretionary government communications in BC in the form of advertising has increased substantially.
Download the full report (pdf).
BC FIPA has made its submission on the Federal Accountability Act, Bill C-2 to the committee reviewing the legislation.
BC FIPA offers 10 recommendations regarding the Act, including increasing the powers of the Information Commissioner, expanding the coverage of the Access to Information Act, creating a duty to document, strengthening public interest provisions, increasing protection for whistleblowers, and more.
Read the full submission and recommendations (pdf).
Justice Canada and BC FIPA held a meeting with civil society groups in the context of the government consultation on Lawful Access on March 15, 2005.
No one in the group assembled for the Vancouver consultation questioned the need for lawful access provisions in the Criminal Code and the Competition Act to address new technologies. However, there was substantial opposition to many of the proposals, and the following summarizes the key recurring comments made throughout the consultation:
The proposals went beyond what was required by the Council of Europe Convention on Cyber-crime.
The proposal of a lower threshold for obtaining legal access to transmission data was not acceptable and a higher threshold should be mandated. The analogy put forth by the government that transmission data is akin to DNR data, and that it does not attract a higher reasonable expectation of privacy, is false.
It will be very difficult to isolate certain traffic data (e.g. header information) from content, as suggested by the federal government.
E-mail, whether in storage or in transit should be protected at the higher threshold.
As in the 2002 consultation, there is a lack of empirical evidence to prove what difficulties, if any, the federal government is encountering with the current lawful access provisions and which would justify some of the proposals.
The March 31, 2005 deadline for submissions does not provide enough time for adequate consultation and preparation of submissions. The deadline should be extended.
Read the full account of the meeting (pdf).
BC FIPA endorses most of the recommendations for reform of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPP Act) presented in the two reports Enhancing the Province’s Public Sector Access and Privacy Law (Special Committee to Review the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 2004) and Privacy and the USA Patriot Act (the report of the Information and Privacy Commissioner on the privacy implications of public sector outsourcing).
BC FIPA was asked to present its shortlist of priorities for reform of the FOIPP Act. While BC FIPA urges the government to take a comprehensive approach to updating and reforming the Act, including full consideration of the reports mentioned above and our own submissions, here are BC FIPA’s top priorities.
Read BC FIPA’s proposed reforms (pdf).