Investigation finds massive violations of freedom of information law


Information and Privacy Commissioner refers matter to RCMP

VANCOUVER, October 22, 2015 – The BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) is appalled, but not surprised by the stunning findings in the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner’s report on the destruction of email records related to missing women on the Highway of Tears.

Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said “It is difficult to overstate the seriousness of the problems my office discovered.” FIPA agrees.

In a letter written to Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, a former executive assistant to BC’s Minister of Transportation stated that he was ordered to delete email records regarding the Highway of Tears, which had requested under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). Today, Denham announced that her investigation did indeed find that the ministry contravened the Act in a ways that seriously “threaten the integrity of access to information in British Columbia.”

FIPA calls the deletions a serious escalation of the growing—and deeply disturbing—trend of government avoiding its legal obligation to release information.

“We commend Commissioner Elizabeth Denham for her thorough investigation, and her recommendations for immediate action,” said FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek. “She has found that the plague of oral government and destruction of records has spread throughout the government, starting with the Office of the Premier. Action must be taken immediately to restore public confidence in the system.”

FIPA had discussed government’s obligation to create records and called for penalties for improper destruction in its recent submission to the Special Legislative Committee reviewing FIPPA (see pp.7-10). The group recommended that the Act be amended to include a positive duty to create and maintain records, criticised the government’s misuse and overuse of the classification of records as “transitory” (which would allow them to be destroyed), and called for strong legal consequences for those who violate the law by inappropriately destroying records.

The deletions discussed today are part of a larger trend of requests under FIPPA returned with no records. Following a complaint by FIPA, the Commissioner reported an increase in unresponsive records from 13% in 2008/09 to 25% in 2011/12.

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Contact:

Vincent Gogolek, Executive Director
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
vincent@fipa.bc.ca | (o) 604-739-9788 | (c) 604-318-0031