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.
Post Tagged with: "access to information"
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
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.
Canada’s Access to Information Open Data Fail: Departments Months Behind Posting Summaries of Completed Requests
The Liberal government has emphasized the importance of open data and open government policies for years, yet the government has at times disappointed in ways both big (Canada’s access-to-information laws are desperately in need of updating and the current bill does not come close to solving its shortcomings) and small (restrictive licensing and failure to comply with access to information disclosures).
Why the Government’s ATI Reform Bill is a Promise Broken: Proactive Disclosure ≠ Access to Information
When political parties find themselves in opposition, promising to fix the access to information system invariably seems like a good idea. The public is often skeptical about whether the government is transparent and when combined with a woefully outdated Access to Information Act, reform provides a ripe target. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives promised a long list of access to information reforms before taking power, most of which were never acted upon. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals made similar promises when in opposition, unveiling a 32-point plan in June 2015 that pledged a fair and open government backed by access to information reform.
The government introduced Bill C-58 yesterday, the bill promoted as fulfilling its commitment on access to information reform. Discouragingly, it fails to do so. The bill does include some notable improvements, including implementing order making power for the Information Commissioner and establishing a requirement to justify, with written reasons, why information is redacted. However, the bill does not live up to the campaign promise nor does it fully address longstanding concerns with the law.