The act of access to information
Posted by Don McLenaghen on July 2, 2012
Canada languishes in world rankings for government openness. As the 30th anniversary of the Federal Access to Information Act approaches, Canada finds itself tied for 51st in the world on a list of freedom-of-information rankings, languishing behind Angola, Colombia and Niger. This is out of a list of 89 nations. This confirms a previous study done in 2010 by Government Information Quarterly out of the UK that ranked Canada last compared to similar commonwealth nations with regards to freedom of information.
This is sad because when our access to information act was originally passed in 1983 we were seen as a global leader. However since then no changes to the law have occurred to correct issues with the bill, like the fact requests which are supposed to be provided within 30 days but often take months to years and then the information is incomplete. Also, as we are all aware, technology has changed allowing the government to, if it wished, make all its documents available to the public at next to no cost…viva la internet, viva la computer revolution!
Currently the information is not provided in a timely manner, there are departments with a blanket exemption and there is a growing fee for such information. Even simple things like allowing for electronic requests, are not allowed, all filings must be on paper forms and accompanied by the appropriate fee before anything will happen.
It should be a concern to Canadians that our government, current and previous, are not being open with the public and thus accountable. To sound like a broken record, for democracy to work there must be an informed electorate. Now, I am not alleging that Top Secret documents should be available to whoever requests them but it seems baffling that the vast majority of government documents are not available for free online. Even those things that may be questionable should be available under an appropriate process. Now this is not Harper’s doing, so I will not lie this at his feet but it has helped the Conservative’s government attempts to “control” the message with regards to…well everything as we have already talked about censoring science.
Yet, another piece of evidence that things are not “all right” on parliament hill.