Canada’s Information Commissioner laments federal resistance to transparency

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

Public’s Right to Know in Failing Health in Canada, says National Study

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

Canadian Association of Journalists names Klein government as Canada’s “most secretive”

CALGARY – Premier Ralph Klein’s government has been named the “most secretive government body in Canada” by the country’s leading journalism association.

At its annual awards ceremony this past weekend, the Canadian Association of Journalism voted the Government of Alberta the winner of its Code of Silence Award, for its handling of a Freedom of Information request on the use of the government’s private jet.

The association said the Alberta government won out over other deserving candidates for withholding public records from the Edmonton Journal and opposition parties for six months, until two days after the provincial election.

“The Alberta government squeaked by with an astonishingly brazen performance by Premier Ralph Klein and his supporting cast, ” said Paul Schneidereit, president of the CAJ, in a new release.
“Ralph, the Code of Silence, has landed.”

The information that was eventually released was used by the Edmonton Journal in a four-part series which showed the air transportation service was used “like a private taxi by Klein and his ministers.”

A Freedom of Information commissioner has since ordered a public hearing into how the government processed the newspaper’s request.

The Code of Silence Award last year went to Health Canada for “denying meaningful access to a database of prescription drugs that could harm or even kill Canadians.”

Source: CBC News
May 16 2005

Canadian Association of Journalists nominates BC Government for annual ‘Code of Silence’ Award

The Canadian Association of Journalists has nominated the B.C. government for its annual awards recognizing “the most secretive government agency in Canada”.

The B.C. government was nominated for a series of actions that have undermined the province’s freedom of information laws.

The CAJ news release states, “After taking power in 2001, the Liberals steadily cut the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s budget. The government began tracking FOI requests from reporters, which now take significantly longer to process. More fees are charged and appeals can take more than a year. Critics also point to the Liberals’ increased use of outsourcing and public-private partnerships, which puts information of public interest beyond public scrutiny.”

News Release

For further information:
Paul Schneidereit, CAJ president, (902) 426-1124
Robert Cribb, CAJ past-president, (416) 579-0289
John Dickins, CAJ executive director, (613) 526-8061, Cell (613) 290-2903