FOI In The News: Government rejects Senate changes to ATIA; “culture of secrecy” and more

20190617 FOI In The News

The Globe & Mail: Federal government rejects key Senate changes to access-to-information bill

Bill Curry, published June 12, 2019

The federal government has announced it will oppose two proposed Senate amendments to Bill C-58, the first major update to Canada’s federal access-to-information regime since its introduction in 1983.

The Senate proposed giving the Federal Privacy Commissioner the ability to have access decisions certified by the Federal Court of Canada if the government ignores the initial decision or refuses to comply. The Senate also proposed banning the use of “code words” to describe individuals or government entities as a means of evading access-to-information requests.

The federal government has rejected both of these proposed amendments.

Ottawa Citizen: School boards shut out consultant who asked for information

Tom Spears, updated June 7, 2019

Ottawa educational consultant Monika Ferenczy submitted 76 freedom of information (FOI) requests to school boards and public school authorities across Ontario asking how many cases had gone to court or a tribunal, and what each institution had paid in legal fees. Only 28 responded with the requested information before the research project ended. Six institutions outright refused, offering justifications such as solicitor-client privilege, or stating that the requested information was not tracked by the institution. 10 institutions stated the information was available, but only if fees ranging from $150 to $2,100 were paid to cover search and preparation time (which Ferenczy declined to pay). 23 institutions simply never responded to the FOI request at all.

Ottawa Citizen: Canada’s culture of secrecy is hurting everyone

Tom Spears, updated June 6, 2019

An Ottawa Citizen journalist outlines the travails of various researchers and journalists who have attempted to obtain information from federal, provincial and municipal institutions.

The Globe & Mail: Nova Scotia only ‘fully accepted’ 40 per cent of information czar’s findings last year: report

Michael Tutton, published June 5, 2019

Under the Nova Scotia’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, requestors have no option other than going to court if they wish to fight the provincial government’s refusal to release requested information. This sets Nova Scotia apart from other provinces and territories including British Columbia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and the Northwest Territories, each of whom has an information and privacy commissioner with binding authority to order the government to disclose information in response to an FOI request.

CBC News: N.W.T. will soon have most progressive access to information law in Canada

Richard Gleeson, posted June 3, 2019

Information and Privacy Commissioner Elaine Keenan-Bengts will now have the authority to order the disclosure of records. Under the old law, the commissioner could only make recommendations to the government. The new law will also oblige institutions to release information when it is clearly in the public interest to do so, and to immediately release information about risks of significant harm to the environment, the public or a group of people, even in the absence of any specific request to do so.

The Globe & Mail: Ford staffer using private e-mail for government business

Colin Freeze, published May 20, 2019

[…] The office of Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC) says it strongly discourages the practice of government employees using personal e-mail and instant-messaging services to discuss official business.

Government systems archive all official e-mail exchanges, while communications made via personal e-mails can remain undisclosed. While not strictly prohibited, the IPC worries that personal e-mail usage can potentially undermine the laws intended to ensure public access to government records.

“The Premier’s Office is not exempt from the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act as it relates to government business,” said Brian Beamish, the IPC commissioner. In a statement responding to questions from The Globe, he added that “we have recommended that government and political staff only use government devices and platforms.” […]

Ottawa Citizen: ANALYSIS: The long, heavily redacted, road to answers on Ottawa’s LRT project

Jon Willing, updated May 8, 2019

An FOI request submitted by the Ottawa Citizen to the City of Ottawa in April 2017 regarding “risk analysis, risk management and risk mitigation related to the milestones and handover date for the Stage 1 [Light Rapid Transit] project” is still ongoing, due to an appeal by the Rideau Transit Group (RTG) as an entity with third-party interests in the disclosure.

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Related Articles:

FOI In The News (May 8, 2019)

A response to The Toronto Star (and to “FOI reform” articles in general)

Published by Justin Petrillo

I have created the FOI Assist™ software to help Ontario’s provincial and municipal government institutions of all sizes track and respond to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. For most of my career I have been a lawyer, advising clients on commercial, intellectual property and FOI/privacy issues. From 2013 to 2015, I managed the FOI program for the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee while serving as Legal Counsel to the Games. Prior to becoming a lawyer, I obtained a computer science degree and worked as a software developer at several well-known technology companies.

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