BC Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis released his 2004/2005 annual report to the Legislature today and called on the BC government to enact legislation legally requiring public bodies to document their actions or decisions.
“If governments are to be held accountable and the public’s right of access to government information is to be meaningful, information must be accurately and securely preserved to ensure there is a record of what has been done”, the Commissioner stated. “Without reliable recorded evidence, governments cannot demonstrate that they have used public resources responsibly and have discharged their duties and used their powers lawfully.”
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Read the news release
The Environmental Law Clinic (ELC) has asked B.C.’s Information and Privacy Commissioner to conduct a Public Inquiry into whether government discriminates against environmental groups that request government documents under the province’s Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation. ELC student Scott Giesbrecht made the request on June 23, 2005 on behalf of Sierra Legal Defence Fund and Western Canada Wilderness Committee.
The ELC submitted that government has made it more and more difficult for environmental groups to obtain public information. Indeed, environmentalists have faced numerous problems in pursuing FOI requests, including delays, excerption and excessive fees. The ELC also submitted that in a number of cases, government has appeared to act contrary to the spirit and letter of Freedom of Information legislation.
Included within the request was a documented history of over a dozen instances where environmental organizations were stymied in their attempts to acquire information through the provincial FOI process.
Canada’s information watchdog leveled a blistering attack at the federal government in his annual report tabled Monday. John Reid said:
- A “deep distrust” of the federal freedom-of-information law remains entrenched within government.
- The government’s proposed whistleblowing legislation for the public service is actually a legal instrument for covering up alleged government wrongdoing for periods of 20 years.
- A provision in the Anti-Terrorism Act allows the government to stop an investigation by the information commissioner into a federal refusal to disclose material considered sensitive to national security.
- The new Ethics Commissioner’s Office is not covered by the access act even though its predecessor, the Office of the Ethics Counsellor, was covered.
- The Commissioner’s office has been denied the money to do its job properly. As a result, the median time to complete an investigation rose to almost 7.5 months in 2004-05 from about 5.5 months the previous year.
Read the article
Read the Information Commissioner’s Annual Report
Canadians using freedom of information laws to find out how government decisions are affecting their daily lives are very likely to be denied, according to a national audit by the Canadian Newspaper Association.
The CNA study found that while the federal government as well as Canada’s provinces and territories all have freedom of information legislation, in many cases compliance with these laws falls short. Results of the study were released on May 28 in 45 newspapers across Canada.
Read CNA news release and press coverage