Civil society groups kick-off Right to Know Week by calling for immediate action to reform and update FIPPA

Earlier today we sent a joint letter to Premier John Horgan and Minister Jinny Sims supporting Freedom of Information and privacy reform.

The text of the letter, signed by a number of well-known groups and individuals, is set out below. See here for the PDF copy.

September 24, 2018

The Honourable John Horgan
Premier of British Columbia
Victoria, BC

The Honourable Jinny Sims
Minister of Citizens’ Services
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2

By Email: premier@gov.bc.ca; LCTZ.Minister@gov.bc.ca

Dear Premier Horgan and Minister Sims:

Re: Reform of Freedom of Information and Privacy Legislation

This year, Right to Know Week will be celebrated the week of 24-30 September. Right to Know Week provides organizations, groups, and people across Canada an opportunity to come together to raise awareness of the importance of the right of access to government information, and to call for action with a view to strengthening and protecting this fundamental right.

We are marking 2018’s Right to Know Week by writing to you regarding the need for immediate action to reform and update BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

The FIPPA is outdated, and meaningful and substantive reforms are long overdue. This has been the conclusion of various studies and reports, including the 2016 Report of the Special Legislative Committee tasked with reviewing the Act. It is also our conclusion as active users and observers of BC’s Freedom of Information system. Necessary changes include:

  • Creating a real legislative ‘duty to document’ under FIPPA, to end the practice of ‘oral government’ and ensure that government officials are legally required to keep accurate, complete records of what they do on the job;
  • Tightening certain exceptions to disclosure, particularly sections 12 (cabinet records) and 13 (policy advice), including taking steps to end the abuse of these provisions;
  • Bringing all subsidiaries of educational and other public bodies within the scope of the FIPPA; and
  • Creating penalties, under the FIPPA, for government officials who interfere with freedom of information rights.

Your government has expressed a commitment to improve BC’s freedom of information system, and we know that you have taken steps to consult with the public and the FOI community (through the Spring 2018 public engagement on FOI and the ongoing Freedom of Information Rules Project conducted by the Ministry of Citizens’ Services). However, we have yet to see the introduction of legislation to reform the FIPPA.

In our experience, governments of all types and at all levels frequently speak about the importance of transparency, accountability, and the right to know, and opposition political parties often call for FOI reform. However, these claims rarely translate into meaningful actions to improve the legislation that supports our right to know.

There is an opportunity for your government to show true leadership in this area by bringing forward legislation to reform the FIPPA. We note that 84% of respondents in a 2018 Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of BC FIPA believe that FOI reforms should be put into law before the next provincial election. There is both a pressing need for change and a clear public mandate for it. We hope that you will mark this Right to Know Week by announcing – and committing to – a timetable for the introduction of a FIPPA reform bill.

We are available to work with your government to help bring about positive changes to protect the information rights of all British Columbians and build a stronger democracy.

Yours Truly,

 

 

 

 

Sara Neuert
Executive Director, BC FIPA

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Larsen
President, BC FIPA

 

Micheal Vonn, Policy Director, BC Civil Liberties Association
Darrell Evans, Executive Director (volunteer), Canadian Institute for Information and Privacy Studies Society
Kris Constable, President, Canadian Institute for Information and Privacy Studies Society
Tamir Israel, Staff Lawyer, Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic
Randy Christensen, Staff Lawyer, EcoJustice
John Hinds, President and Chief Executive Officer, News Media Canada
Beth Clarke, Development and Program Director, Wilderness Committee
Vincent Gogolek, FOI and Privacy Expert,
Toby Mendel, Executive Director, Centre for Law and Democracy
Stanley Tromp, Journalist
Robyn Laba, Senior Researcher, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs
Laura Tribe, Executive Director, OpenMedia

FIPA’s Submission on FIPPA reform

FIPA’s submission on FIPPA reform

FIPA has been busy the past few months pushing for Freedom of Information and privacy reform. During this time, we ramped up pressure on the new government with our Ipsos poll and a joint letter sent to Premier John Horgan pushing for information rights reform.

In response, the BC Ministry of Citizens’ Services has launched a public consultation on freedom of information and privacy rights in BC. Building upon our 2015 FIPPA submission, you can read our updated submission here.

Submission deadline is April 9, 2018 at 4PM. You can have your say either through online discussion, or by written submission. More information on ways to participate here: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/infoaccess/ways-to-participate-2/

The Ministry of Citizens’ Services has added a phone number and email for greater accessibility: 250-208-3591 or CitizenEngagement@gov.bc.ca.

Joint letter calls for action on FOI and privacy reform

Earlier today we sent a joint letter to Premier John Horgan supporting Freedom of Information and privacy reform, and offering our help to bring this about.

The text of the letter, signed by a number of well-known groups and individuals, is set out below. See here for the PDF copy.

 

February 22, 2018

The Honourable John Horgan
Premier of British Columbia
Victoria, BC

Dear Premier Horgan:

Re: Reform of Freedom of Information and Privacy Legislation

We are writing you regarding the need for immediate action in bringing about long-delayed reform of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

Doubtless you appreciate that although that law was groundbreaking for the early 1990s, (when it was brought in by the NDP government of Mike Harcourt), it has become outdated and is in need of serious reform, as last year’s Special Legislative Committee outlined in its report. Some of the reforms called for include:

  • Implementing a legislative duty to document in FIPPA itself,
  • Bringing in legislative solutions to end the over-application of certain exceptions to disclosure, particularly sections 12 (cabinet records) and 13 (policy advice) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act,
  • Bringing the subsidiaries of educational and other public bodies within the scope of the FIPPA, and
  • Implementing mandatory breach notification.

It is our view that work must begin immediately on updating the Act.

In the meantime, we would like to remind you of an action your government can take immediately to demonstrate a concrete commitment to improving the system.

During the last election, your party was asked by the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association about a policy brought in by the previous government to post “the texts of Freedom of Information requests it receives even before releasing any information [to] the requester.” BC FIPA asked two questions, which are set out below along with your party’s responses:

Q:Do you agree with this policy, and if so, why?
A: No.
Q: If not, will your government end this practice?
A: Yes.

This practice continues to this day, despite your party’s very clear statement that it does not agree with it and will end it.

This does not require legislation or Chamber time, so we are puzzled as to why your government has yet to carry out your party’s quite categorical commitment to end it.

Finally, we would like to mention the result of a poll conducted last month by Ipsos Canada for BC FIPA. When asked how important they thought it was that your government bring in reforms to the information and privacy law before the next BC election, 47 percent said it was very important, and 38 percent said it was somewhat important.

We are available to work with your government to help bring about positive changes to protect the information rights of all British Columbians and build a stronger democracy.

Please let British Columbians know when we can expect this work to begin.

Yours Truly,

Vincent Gogolek

Executive Director

 

Micheal Vonn, Policy Director, BC Civil Liberties Association
Glen Hansman, President, BC Teachers Federation
Nick Taylor-Vaisey, President / National director, Canadian Association of Journalists
Darrell Evans, President, Canadian Institute for Information and Privacy Studies Society
Tamir Israel, Staff Lawyer, Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic
Randy Christensen,  Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice
Jennifer Whiteside, Secretary Business Manager, Hospital Employees’ Union
Dermod Travis, Executive Director, Integrity BC
John Hinds, President and Chief Executive Officer, News Media Canada
Neil Self, Chairperson, Positive Living Society of British Columbia
Sharon Polsky, President, Privacy and Access Council of Canada
Beth Clarke, Development and Program Director, Wilderness Committee
Shannon Daub, Associate Director, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – BC Office
Stanley Tromp, Journalist

FIPA’s submission on ATIA reform

November 1, 2017

FIPA’s Submission on ATIA reform (Bill C-58)

The long-promised Liberal amendments to the Access to Information Act (ATIA) were finally revealed just before Parliament’s summer recess, and the reaction was swift and overwhelmingly negative.

Federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault (who was not consulted by the government on the proposed legislation) was also highly critical, saying “If passed, it would result in a regression of existing rights.”

Commissioner Legault issued a special report which detailed her many criticisms of what the government is proposing.

FIPA sent our own extensive criticisms in our submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.