By Janice Tibbets
December 9, 2008
Should access to government information be elevated to a constitutional right?
The Supreme Court of Canada, in a massive legal challenge Thursday that is drawing more than a dozen interveners, will consider whether access-to-information laws, which permit the public to see documents that the state seeks to keep secret, are so restrictive that they violate freedom of expression.
The appeal reaches the court at a time when governments face growing criticism for their inner workings being shrouded in secrecy amid toothless access laws, which are under fire for containing so many exemptions that they effectively block the release of information.
The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, an intervener in the case, will argue that open government is as important as open courts. The group says it is not necessary for the court to pronounce on the full scope of access rights, but at the very least the bench should at least declare that the public interest must be weighed in each case before denying information.