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Access-to-Information request on Rights and Democracy ignored


 

Let us assume, for the sake of the argument, that Canada’s Access to Information Act is a legally-enforceable piece of legislation that is relevant to how this government and bureaucracy comport themselves.

Here, then, is section 7:

“Where access to a record is requested under this Act, the head of the government institution to which the request is made shall, subject to sections 8, 9 and 11, within thirty days after the request is received,

“(a) give written notice to the person who made the request as to whether or not access to the record or a part thereof will be given; and

“(b) if access is to be given, give the person who made the request access to the record or part thereof.”

As readers of this space may recall, last November I filed an access-to-information request to the Privy Council Office asking for a copy of a performance evaluation report on the now deceased president of Rights and Democracy, Rémy Beauregard.

Ann Wesch, director of access to information and privacy at the Privy Council Office, responded: “A thorough search of the records under the control of the Privy Council Office was carried out on your behalf; however, no records relevant to your request were found.”

The alleged search could not have been that thorough. David Matas, a member of the Rights and Democracy board, later confirmed the existence of this report and its release to the PCO. When I pointed this out to Wesch, she suggested my original request might not have been “tasked out properly.” She promised to launch a new search and didn’t even charge me the $5 fee these things usually cost. Very sporting of her, I thought.

That was February 24. Keen observers of a calender will notice that more than 30 days have passed. I’ve received no response, written or otherwise from the PCO. In fact, I put calls in to Wesch’s office on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of last week and was promised they would be returned. They haven’t.


 

Access-to-Information request on Rights and Democracy ignored

  1. Bet those calls will be returned now.

    • That's what you'd think if you didn't know who Mr Petrou is dealing with. The documents will likely be blocked due to national security concerns.

    • Unfortunately a story about how the government is obstructing the release of documents is hardly noteworthy anymore, and is far less damaging to the government than any revelations from the report itself.

  2. It's too bad there appears to be no option for recourse when the government fails to obey their own rules except for at the ballot box where issues like this seem to be trivialized by an unaware population. I believe the time has come for reporters across the country to stand up to harper and company. It's time that they banded together and told harper that he either plays by the rules, ie providing press conferences where the questions aren't vetted and pre-approved, access to information rules upheld, and just a bit more transparency, or they provide NO coverage to any government photo ops.

    • Without researching it, I'm willing to bet that there is recourse at this stage, but that it's probably relatively long, cumbersome, and the only thing you could get would be an order that they finally give you a response.

    • It is, I believe, a deemed refusal if there is no response to a request within the timeframe, and there is a redress process.

  3. This should be interesting.

  4. But we already know that the Conservative's political staff interfere with public servants when they try to adhere to the law. Here's the latest example:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/tory

    Note that public servants did indeed have in there possession — ready to be sent — the dollar figures requested and had lobbied to release them. Instead, the political staff instructed pubic servants to lie outright to those making the request (The G&M), claiming, "We have provided you with all the information available at this point." All to save Steve Harper from some bad PR at the Olympics he was using for PR.

    This may seem a small matter, but these types of events, as they accumulate, are the very definition of public corruption.

  5. I'm not sure which is more likely:
    1. That the folks responsible for saying yes or no to these access to information requests can't be bothered to respond (because they have other things to do?) or,
    2. That the folks responsible for saying yes or no to these access to information requests are too afraid to say "no" outright, and would rather back out quietly and hope nobody notices, like a really crappy breakup.

    • Did you just break up?

  6. Having used ATI requests at the provincial level, it would not surprise me if this particular record was classified as a personal record of Mr. Beauregaurd. If so, it would have been releasable to him, but not necessarily anyone else without his consent. Since he is deceased, one presumes that control would then pass to his next of kin, presumably his wife.

    Since she has indicated in the press her desire to ensure his latest review was removed forever from the PCO or the record corrected (I hope I am paraphrasing correctly) I doubt it will ever be released publicly without her consent, or without she herself releasing it. I also presume she has his copy.

    • Excellent point! Here's what Mr. Beauregard's widow, Suzanne Trepanier, said about it:

      "Considering the events I witnessed during the months preceding and following my husband's death," she wrote, "I think it is important that I can be heard, particularly to clear my husband's name in order to remove from the Privy Council Office all the documents regarding his evaluation that are still in his file."

      <a href="http://calgary.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100319/tories_testify_100319/20100319/?hub=CalgaryHome

      ” target=”_blank”>http://calgary.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100319/tories_testify_100319/20100319/?hub=CalgaryHome

    • Except, if it were as simple as "We can't release information of a private nature without the consent of the person to whom that information refers", couldn't that response have been sent back in November? Even if this information cannot be released without the widow's consent, that doesn't explain why the PCO hasn't replied to the request by saying "we can't release that information without the next of kin's consent", nor, more importantly, would it explain why the PCO's initial response was not, "we have it, but we can't release it to you for privacy reasons", but "no records relevant to your request were found".

      • If they couldn't find a record initially (either through looking in the wrong place, the request was improperly worded/not specific enough, or someone was not forthcoming with the record to the FOI officer) then there would be no need to claim it was a personal record.

        Now that there is proof that the record does exist, additional time may be required beyond the 30 days to consult with the next of kin, if ater obtaining and reviewing the record, they determine that it is in fact a personal record – which may be appealable. In any event, Ms. Trepanier is now on the witness list so perhaps she will enter it as evidence in the Committee hearings.

  7. But the appropriate response in that case is to refuse the request, with that explanation.

  8. Maybe they consider it part of the same process, rather than beginning a new request necessitating another 30-day notification period?

  9. I work in the Ontario Public Service and I just wanted to let people know that not all levels of Canadian government are this bad. The feds gives us all a bad name.

  10. The Banana Republic of Canada is now a thing of the present. The Privy council, the foreign affairs minister and all pro-Harper appointees to Rights and Democracy make this country fall from it's once glorified status.

    I would like to see G.W.Bush come into play right about now. Why ? Just to add some spice to the awfull mix of lies and deception.

    A non-partisan arm's length organization stuffed with partisan board members. Access to information never being properly answered, cloak and dagger approach to finding the truth with Breaking and entering and Laptop theft.

    I suggest we present parliament with "Weapons of Mass Destruction" scheme hidden right in R&D's offices as a pretext to get the USA to invade the premises, send all the employees to Abu Graib and then blame Palestinian Human rights organization for starting this whole mess.

    At least pro-Israel pundits will not be able to bicker that human rights agencies are plotting against them and all Jewish communities…

    Is it just me or don't we all feel like throwing up !

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