‘First-rate’ access reform coming, says new Justice Minister Cotler

By Paco Francoli
The Hill Times
October 18th, 2004

The Liberal government is finally ready to move forward with reform of the 21-year-old Access to Information Act, confirmed Justice Irwin Cotler on Friday.

The minister told The Hill Times the government plans to introduce its own piece of legislation or cooperate with NDP MP Pat Martin who already has a bill in the works.

“I am open to the kind of cooperation that would produce the best legislative initiative, whether it came from [Pat Martin] in a private members’ bill or it came from us as a governmental bill,” Mr. Cotler said after Question Period on Oct. 15.

Read the full article

FIPA urges all MPs to take up the torch for transparency of federal institutions

October 4, 2004 – FIPA has sent a letter to all federal MPs urging them to help build a “formidable constituency of support” for reforms to increase government transparency.

The letter states, “When the tenure of Prime Minister Martin began, he declared his intention to improve the quality of Canada’s democracy, including the transparency of its federal institutions. Indeed, all party leaders have declared their support for these values. But previous attempts to increase transparency have fallen short. How can we be sure that this commitment bears fruit in the coming session?

“The answer must be found in building a formidable constituency of support for this reform among political leaders of all parties, and it is to encourage this that we send you this letter of appeal. We are seeking MPs who will take up the torch for government transparency and accountability in the coming session.”

The letter recommends action in five main areas:
1. Updating and reforming the Access to Information Act
2. Extending the ATI Act to crown corporations and other “quasi-governmental bodies” (at least 250 bodies have been created that are not covered by the act)
3. Extending the ATI Act to Officers of Parliament
4. Creating an Information Management Act, designed to regulate the entire life-cycle of government-held information
5. Providing adequate funding for the office of the Information Commissioner

COMPLETE LETTER

VANCOUVER SUN ARTICLE by Stanley Tromp, FIPA Research Director and FOI Caucus Coordinator, Canadian Association of Journalists

Government committee recommends enhanced access to records and improved privacy protection

FIPA is applauding the final report of a 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, “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.

“The committee’s recommendations will enhance the working of the act for all British Columbians,” said the committee chair, MLA Blair Lekstrom. “The report also clearly confirms that the public has the right to expect that their FOI requests will be treated equally, impartially and in a timely manner by public bodies.”

“We believe that openness is the proper way for government to conduct the public’s business,” added the deputy chair, MLA Mike Hunter. “Therefore, our report recommends that more government information be routinely disclosed so that the records of public bodies are open to public scrutiny, subject only to necessary exceptions.”

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.

Full news release
Final Report

BC’s Information and Privacy Commissioner decries public servants’ proposals to weaken the Freedom of Information & Privacy Act

BC Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis has sent a letter to the BC government decrying proposals for changes to the FOI and privacy act that would “undermine the openness and accountability the government has promised.”

The letter was sent to a Special Committee of the Legislature that is conducting a review of the Act. It fires a broadside against a set of proposals submitted by public servants who are chafing under the Act’s requirements to disclose information to the public.

The letter may be viewed on the Commissioner’s website

See also under “Current Activities” on home page:
CAMPAIGN for Improvements to BC’s FOI and Privacy Act