Justice Minister Presents Framework for Reform of the Access to Information Act

OTTAWA , April 5, 2005 – The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Irwin Cotler, today presented a discussion paper on Access to Information reform to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. The paper outlines the Government’s views on access reform issues for the Committee’s consideration before the Government proceeds with proposed amendments to the ATI Act.

“The Government of Canada is committed to reforming the Access to Information Act (ATI Act) so that it meets the needs of Canadians and further strengthens the integrity, accountability and transparency of government operations,” said Minister Cotler.

“Our reform initiative is organized around two basic principles: first, that freedom of information is a cornerstone of a culture of democratic governance, and second, that the Access to Information Act is a pillar of democracy which the Supreme Court of Canada has described as quasi-constitutional in nature.”

FIPA executive director Darrell Evans stated, “We hope this marks the beginning of a sincere process of reform of the 22-year old ATI Act. The Act desperately needs to be strengthened and updated to reflect modern expectations of government transparency and accountability.

“We urge all MPs and Ministers to get behind this reform and make it happen, regardless of the current instability in Canadian politics.”

Federal Information Commissioner John Reid is critical of the discussion paper, believing it is too much based on a flawed review of the Act conducted in 2002 and could result in increased government secrecy (See article below).

Full government news release

Discussion paper “A comprehensive Framework for Access to Information Reform: A Discussion Paper, April 2005”

WATCHDOG SLAMS FEDERAL PLAN FOR INFORMATION LAW
Canadian Press
April 12, 2005
OTTAWA – The federal information watchdog says Liberal government proposals for revising Canada’s freedom-of-information law would dramatically increase secrecy instead of modernizing the act for the 21st century.
Information Commissioner John Reid urged members of a Commons committee today to be wary of the government plan to redraw the Access to Information Act.
Reid, an ombudsman for users of the law, rhymed off more than a dozen elements of Cotler’s plan he argues would entrench secrecy, saying only a few would open up additional records to Canadians.
For instance, the federal proposals will make it easier to extend the 30-day deadline for responding to requests, weaken the information commissioner’s powers and grant secrecy to additional types of records such as consultants’ reports, he said.