FOI requesters in BC invited to participate in landmark survey

FIPA has commissioned BC’s first-ever formal survey of people who have made requests for information under the province’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The survey is designed to determine whether it has become easier or more difficult to obtain information under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPP Act) over the past five years.

The survey is being conducted by Professor Martin Dowding of the UBC School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, with the assistance of two Masters students.

Anyone who has made a request under the FOIPP act is invited to participate by filling out an online survey form.

The survey will be administered by email and consists of 35 questions. We anticipate that the survey will take between 10 and 30 minutes to answer. Your participation will be greatly appreciated and will help contribute to more transparent governance in British Columbia.

Please forward this email invitation to any person or organization that you feel will benefit from completing the survey!!!

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

See the survey website

or contact:

Martin Dowding, PhD
School of Library, Archival and Information Studies
University of British Columbia
Tel:(604) 822-2704
E-Mail: dowdingm@interchange.ubc.ca

Darrell Evans
Executive Director
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
Tel: 604) 739-9788
E-Mail: darrell@fipa.bc.ca

Have bureaucrats hijacked the review of BC’s Freedom of Information Act?

BC’s Freedom of Information Act is in dire need of updating and strengthening. A formal review of the act completed in 2004 should have yielded improvements, but the government has taken a puzzling detour.

A Special Committee of the Legislature conducted a comprehensive review of the FOI act in 2004 and submitted a report with detailed recommendations for reforms. After more than a year of inaction on the report, the government has sidelined the work of the Special Committee and handed the task over to a consultant who will advise them on what changes need to be made to the act.

FIPA can only conclude that the new review has been launched as a way of avoiding the recommendations of the special committee. Our intelligence suggests the review was lobbied for by bureaucrats who are hostile to the FOI act and who are trying to do an end run around the committee.

FIPA is urging the government to get things back on track and implement the recommendations of the special committee.

Articles on this topic:

Les Leyne, the Victoria Times Colonist

Russ Francis, the Georgia Straight

Mike Smyth, The Province

Backgrounder

Government committee recommends enhanced access to records and improved privacy protection
May 20, 2004

FIPA is applauding the final report of the Special Committee of the BC Legislature that has completed a six-year review of the province’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The committee’s report provides the Liberal government with a clear signal of the direction it should take to improve FOI and privacy rights in BC. FIPA has urged the Hon. Joyce Murray, the Minister responsible for the FOI and privacy act, to act on the committee’s recommendations as soon as possible by introducing legislation to amend the act.

The special committee’s report, ENHANCING THE PROVINCE’S PUBLIC SECTOR ACCESS AND PRIVACY LAW, makes 26 recommendations to improve each of the 6 parts of the act. Its proposals for legislative change include:

  • promoting a culture of openness to enhance the accountability of public bodies;
  • encouraging the 2,200 public bodies covered by the act to use privacy-enhancing technologies to protect personal information;
  • strengthening the powers of the independent Information and Privacy Commissioner; and
  • requiring that more government records be made available on a routine basis.

Website of the Special Committee to Review the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

News releases

Read the committee’s full report, “Enhancing the Province’s Public Sector Access and Privacy Law”
FIPA Reports and Submissions

WATCHDOG GROUPS GIVE BC GOVERNMENT A FAILING GRADE ON FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
News release, May 2005

OPEN GOVERNMENT: BC LIBERALS PROMISE MUCH, DELIVER LITTLE
FIPA grades the performance of the Liberal administration on Freedom of Information issues, 2001-2004

PROPOSED REFORMS OF BC’S FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AND PROTECTION OF PRIVACY ACT – FIPA, August, 2005

A PRESCRIPTION FOR “DR. DOE” – Proposed Revisions to s. 13 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in Response to the Decision in College of Physicians of British Columbia v. British Columbia – January 19, 2004

La Forest Report urges Ottawa to “do much more” to make access to information and privacy laws work

The federal government got a lot more than it asked for when it commissioned former Supreme Court justice Gerard La Forest to study whether or not the offices of the federal Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner should be merged.

Although these offices are merged in some provinces, it was not entirely clear what was pushing the move toward a federal merger. Regardless, Justice LaForest was clearly unimpressed with the merger idea and urged Ottawa to focus instead on making information and privacy laws work better for the public.

La Forest’s report says a full merger, or the appointment of a single commissioner to both offices, “would likely have a detrimental impact” on the policy aims of the access and privacy laws.

La Forest calls on Ottawa to “do much more” to foster compliance with information and privacy obligations. Concerning access to records, he says the government should:

  • Make it clear to officials that information should be provided to requesters unless there is a clear and compelling reason not to do so.
  • Develop better information management systems.
  • Provide incentives for complying with the law.

With respect to privacy, La Forest says the government should pay greater attention to the implications of programs involving the sharing, matching and outsourcing of personal information about Canadians to private companies.

He also urges better training for access and privacy officials who process inquiries from the public.

Read the report

Harper pledges to strengthen Access to Information Act and protect whistleblowers

Opposition leader Stephen Harper has announced that, if elected, the Conservatives will introduce major measures to increase federal transparency and accountability.

The federal Liberals promised major initiatives to increase transparency, but FIPA and other watchdogs have taken them to task for introducing ineffective whistleblower legislation and failing to carry through with reform of the Access to Information Act.

The Conservatives say their proposed Federal Accountability Act will, among other things, strengthen the federal Access to Information Act and provide “real protection for whistleblowers.”

Among other measures, the Conservatives promise to:

Strengthen access to information legislation

  • Implement the Information Commissioner’s recommendations for reform of the Access to Information Act.
  • Give the Information Commissioner the power to order the release of information.
  • Expand the coverage of the act to all Crown corporations, Officers of Parliament, foundations and organizations that spend taxpayers’ money or perform public functions.

Provide protection for whistleblowers