BC’s public transit authority moves behind closed doors

The new board chair of TransLink, BC’s public transit authority, is coming under fire for deciding to move the provincial transit authority’s previously public board meetings behind closed doors.

Dale Parker says the media and the public will no longer be allowed into regular board meetings. He says the most effective process for developing strategic plans is without the public or media present.

Parker also says it is standard practice for crown corporations to carry out board meetings in private.

“It’s a matter of what can be the most effective process for developing strategic plans and then within it considering the major decisions that have to be made.”

However, Parker does say the public will be invited to address the board roughly four times a year. Parker is a former president of the Workers Compensation Board.

Media coverage

CBC News

CKNW(AM980)

Globe and Mail

Vancouver Sun

2007 Whistleblower award presented to former employee of BC Ministry of Water, Air and Land Protection

On December 11, the 2007 Whistleblower Award was presented in a ceremony at Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre campus.

A crystal trophy was presented to Gord McAdams, an Ecologist formerly with the BC government, by the Campaign for Open Government and the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA).

The ceremony featured remarks by Maureen Bader of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Gwen Barlee of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, Darrell Evans of FIPA, and MLA Shane Simpson, who recently introduced a private member’s bill called the “Whistleblowers Protection Act” in the BC Legislature.

Gord McAdams is a city councillor in Nelson, BC and a former employee of BC’s Ministry of Water, Air and Land Protection. Against the wishes of his employer and at great risk to himself, he brought key documentary evidence to the BC Supreme Court showing that the BC Government intended to violate the Park Act by relocating an entrance to Grohman Narrows Provincial Park.

A developer had requested the realignment of an access road and the Minister of Water, Air and Land Protection had approved it in spite of the fact that it would threaten the habitat of the park’s endangered turtle population. The Supreme Court ruled that the government could not ignore the Park Act to accommodate a developer.

For his courageous act, Gord was fired just hours before he was due to retire. As a result, he lost $25,000 in retirement benefits. The benefits were restored later when his union, the BCGEU, went to bat for him.

News coverage for the Vancouver Sun, the Province, and the Globe and Mail

Past winners, whistleblower and freedom of information awards

For more information on the Whistleblower Awards or the Campaign for Open Government, contact:

Matt Smith
604.255.1336
info@opengovernment.ca

Canada’s new do-not-call list process a farce: Michael Geist

The news over the summer that the CRTC was at long last moving forward with a national do-not-call list generated a sigh of relief from millions of Canadians fed up with intrusive, unwanted and inconvenient unsolicited telemarketing calls.

In the past few months, the do-not-call list details have begun to emerge with the CRTC addressing questions surrounding who will run the list, who will pay for it and who will investigate consumer complaints. While Canadians might expect most of those responsibilities to rest with the CRTC, the commission appears to have a far different vision– one that involves a near-complete outsourcing of responsibilities to Canada’s dominant telecommunications companies.

Full Toronto Star column

ACTION ALERT: Join Canada’s privacy watchdogs in call for suspension of new no-fly list

Canada’s official privacy watchdogs have formed a united front to call for suspension of the Canadian government’s new no-fly list until it can be overhauled to ensure strong privacy protections for Canadians.

FIPA is urging all concerned citizens to join in by emailing the Prime Minister (See last paragraph).

The federal, provincial and territorial privacy commissioners issued a joint resolution on Thursday June 28 outlining reforms urgently required for Passenger Protect, the new program designed to keep security threats off airplanes.

The resolution is available on the website of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

The Commissioners released the following statement in a joint news release

“The Passenger Protect Program involves the secretive use of personal information in a way that will profoundly impact privacy and other related human rights such as freedom of association and expression and the right to mobility.

“We are particularly troubled that Canadians will not have legally enforceable rights of appeal, to independent adjudication or to compensation for out-of-pocket expenses or other damages. Commissioners and ombudsmen are unanimously of the view that the use of such lists in the interests of airline security should only occur in a manner consistent with Canadian values in the area of privacy protection.

“It is alarming that Transport Canada will not assure Canadians that the names of people on it will not be shared with other countries. We do not want to see, through the failure to take adequate safeguards, other tragic situations arise where the security of Canadian citizens may be affected or compromised by security forces at home or abroad.

“There is a very real risk people will be stopped from flying because they have been incorrectly listed or share the name of someone on the list. There have been many cases with the U.S. no-fly list where false positives have meant that even children and well-known public figures such as Senator Edward Kennedy have been questioned or denied boarding.

Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon has said that the names of as many as 2,000 people who have secretly been declared security threats by government officials have been placed on the list. They will be denied boarding passes if they try to get on an airplane in Canada.

“Being placed on the list has serious repercussions for people. This is particularly worrisome since Canada’s federal public-sector Privacy Act is in critical need of reform and offers no adequate protection or remedies to address the privacy risks that inappropriate use of the no-fly list creates.

“Until the government substantially overhauls Passenger Protect in order to address significant risks of the no-fly list to the privacy and other rights of Canadians, the program should be suspended. Alternatively, Parliament should ensure that the program functions under strict ministerial scrutiny with regular public reports to Parliament until a comprehensive public parliamentary review is completed and reforms are made.”

FIPA encourages concerned citizens to email Prime Minister Stephen Harper at pm@pm.gc.ca, telling him that they suppoort the federal, provincial, and territorial privacy commissioners, that the No-Fly list should be suspended, and that a parliamentary committee should hold public hearings on this matter.