In 2017, I filed an access to information request with Global Affairs Canada seeking records related to the creation of the WIPO Internet Treaties more than 20 years earlier. The timing of the request was not accidental. The exception for cabinet confidences in the Access to Information Act no longer applies after 20 years and my hope was to gain insights into the government’s thinking during the negotiation process that might have previously been publicly unavailable. The request took a long time to process and the department still withheld many records on a range of grounds. I rarely appeal to the Information Commissioner, but in this case I did. Last week, the Information Commissioner determined that my complaint was well-founded, but Global Affairs and its Minister, Melanie Joly, have thus far refused to abide by the ruling.
Post Tagged with: "access to information"
“A Lack of Commitment to Transparency and a Failure of Leadership”: Melanie Joly and Global Affairs Ignore Information Commissioner Ruling in My Request for Decades-Old Copyright Records
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 173: Tom Cardoso on Access to Information and the Globe and Mail’s Secret Canada Initiative
Canada’s Access to Information system is now widely viewed as a failure, marked by extensive delays and processes that can be difficult to navigate. While the reforms continue to lag within government, the Globe and Mail has undertaken a remarkable project that does the work governments should be doing. Secret Canada is part giant ATIP database, part investigative series in the Globe in Mail on freedom to information. Led by Tom Cardoso and Robin Doolittle, the project is an exceptional resource that opens the door to better government transparency and greater accessibility of the ATIP system. Cardoso is member of the Globe’s investigations team whose work often combines freedom of information requests, data analysis and source development. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to talk about the challenges with Canada’s access to information system and the Secret Canada project.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 143: Canada’s Information Commissioner Caroline Maynard on Why Government Needs a Culture of Providing Information Instead of Hiding It
Canadians using the Access to Information Act system frequently find that it is simply does not work as the legislation prescribes, with most facing long delays and widespread redactions. Canada’s Information Commissioner Caroline Maynard is trying to do something to fix that. She has been calling for legislative reforms, more resources, and leadership within government departments to prioritize providing information instead of hiding it. Commissioner Maynard joins the Law Bytes podcast to discuss the current system, how exceptions are often used too aggressively to limit public access, and what can be done to fix these problems.
The Rest of the Online Harms Consultation Story: Canadian Heritage Forced to Release Hundreds of Public Submissions Under Access to Information Law
For months, the results of the government’s online harms consultation was shrouded in secrecy as the Canadian Heritage refused to disclose the hundreds of submissions it received. I launched a page that featured publicly available submissions (links reposted below), including 25 submissions from organizations and companies as well as six individual expert submissions. I later followed up with two posts that provided further details on the publicly available submissions (here and here). Earlier this year, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez released a “what we heard” report that again blocked making the actual submissions public, but provided a summary that left little doubt that the government’s plans were widely criticized and required a policy reset.
In the meantime, I filed an Access to Information Act request to compel disclosure by law of the consultation submissions. It took many months, but this week the department released the results. While some submissions may be excluded – third parties can object on certain grounds – I have obtained hundreds of additional submissions in a 1,162 page file. These can be obtained directly from Canadian Heritage by launching an informal access request at no cost with the department. The file to request is A-2021-00174 (or click here for the full file for the moment).
CRTC Truthiness: New Docs Reveal New Story About Bell Meetings with the Commission on Website Blocking
Earlier this year, access to information documents obtained by the Forum for Research and Policy in Communications revealed that Bell had presented its plan for website blocking to CRTC officials months before it was formally filed to allow for public review and comment. As far back as July 2017, Bell pressed a CRTC commissioner for a meeting, which led to a Commission presentation in September 2017. The CRTC downplayed the meeting, telling reporters in response to queries that there was a meeting with Commission legal staff on September 21, 2017.