The BC FOI News Story Index

Vancouver, September 26, 2019 – As part of Right to Know Week 2019, Independent journalist Stanley Tromp has published the BC Freedom of Information (FOI) News Story Index. The new resource, which received support from the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, is a database that documents significant news items produced using BC’s FOI laws since they came into force in 1993.

The resource includes more than 1,900 news items based on government records obtained using BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (and other FOI laws), including items featured in newspapers, magazines, websites, radio and television. They are all part of the new Excel database that Mr. Tromp has separated into 24 searchable categories.

“This resource represents a huge step in demonstrating the importance of BC’s freedom of information laws,” says Sara Neuert, the Executive Director of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. “It shows how the legislation has been used in the public interest for almost 30 years, and helps to put in perspective what we’re at risk of losing without law reform.”

The BC FOI News Story Index will be a useful reference for students of journalism, FOI applicants and appellants, media lawyers, special interest groups, historians, and anyone interested in using freedom of information laws in order to exercise their right to know.

As the database demonstrates, BC’s freedom of information laws have been instrumental in breaking some of the most important stories since 1993. This new resource highlights the importance of the laws in more detail than ever before. Tromp provides a thorough introduction to the Index that emphasizes the public interest value of FOI, makes the case for reforming BC’s FOI law, and provides inspiration and encouragement for aspiring accountability journalists.

The BC FOI News Story Index also received support from Tom Crean.

The BC FOI News Story Index is available on Tromp’s website: http://www3.telus.net/index100/intro2019

Contact:

Sara Neuert, Executive Director

BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association

Email: fipa (at) fipa.bc.ca

Phone: 604-739-9788

-30-

Transparency, Privacy, and the Federal Election

It is election season, and the leaders of Canada’s political parties are making promises, presenting platforms, and answering questions about plans and policies.

The next Government of Canada will have to take positions on transparency reform, privacy in a digital age, democracy and Big Data, and the regulation of increasingly-intrusive surveillance practices.

We want to make sure that the information and privacy rights are part of the public conversation during the election period, and we want your help!

Send us an email at fipa@fipa.bc.ca and share the information and privacy policy questions that you would like to see answered by the federal political parties.

We will be compiling an Election Questionnaire, just as we did during BC’s last provincial election, and sending it to the major parties.

The election is on the horizon, so we hope to hear from you soon!

New on the Podcast: Information Laundering

As we learned in the first episode of Data Subjects, BC’s Freedom of Information laws were created in order to ensure that public records belong to the public, which is a fundamental principle to our democracy.

Citizens in a democratic nation must have a right of access to information about their government in order to make informed choices. But prior to 1992, we didn’t have these rights in BC. And now, we’re at risk of losing them again due to something called information laundering.

This episode is about a loophole in BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that allows public bodies to create subsidiary companies that are not subject to BC’s Freedom of Information laws.

First, we learn about how BC Ferries and BC Hydro used subsidiary companies with disastrous consequences in the 1990s during the ‘Fast Ferries’ and ‘Hydrogate’ scandals. Then, we hear from Larry Kuehn, of the BC Teachers’ Federation, and find out how BC school boards have misused subsidiary companies.

And finally, we hear from Stanley Tromp, independent journalist, and learn about his experience requesting information about one of UBC’s subsidiary companies, the UBC Properties Trust, and its consequences for health and safety on campus.

If you’d like to see information laundering as a thing of the past, please sign our petition and encourage the BC government to keep their campaign promise of protecting information and privacy rights in BC.

The time for information rights reform is here!

We are asking the BC Government to keep their promise.

Sign the petition for FIPPA reform today!

The BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) was meant to help create a culture of openness and transparency within the government.

Today, however, we frequently see public bodies failing to create records or destroying them in order to avoid the possibility of release. We are getting more calls and hearing more stories from concerned citizens who are not able to get the information they are looking for or who have found their privacy rights breached by a public body with little or no recourse.

Over the past year, we have tried to work with government on improving FIPPA. One year later, there has been no action and we do not have any sign that the government will move forward on legislative change.

What are the issues?

We’re calling for:

  • A legislated duty to document under FIPPA
  • Bringing public bodies’ subsidiaries under FIPPA
  • Implement Mandatory Privacy Breach Notification
  • Expand the oversight of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner in the areas of Privacy

What can you do?

Sign the petition for FIPPA reform today! Along with our partners at the BC Civil Liberties Association, we’re asking you to add your voice to our call for government to make the legislative changes they promised.

By signing the petition, you’ll be directly telling Premier John Horgan, Minister Jinny Sims, and Attorney General David Eby that information and privacy rights are important to you.