The price of government secrets

The Department of Foreign Affairs is under investigation for charging hefty "preparation fees" for routine Access to Information requests

Access to Information laws are hardly a top priority for the average taxpayer. Most Canadians don’t even know that internal government documents are available for public viewing (if you pay $5 and are willing to wait months and months for a response). But for those who do take regular advantage of federal access laws‹especially researchers, academics, opposition politicians and journalists—this news is certainly disturbing: the Foreign Affairs department is under investigation for charging unwarranted “preparation fees” before responding to requests, creating a potentially illegal barrier between government records and a curious public. Essentially, someone asking for the minister’s briefing notes or assessments of the Afghan mission could be asked to pay hundreds of dollars to “prepare” the records, only to receive a package of papers that is completely censored. “They’re doing this to discourage Access requests,” says lawyer Michel Drapeau. “It’s fundamentally wrong because it goes against the spirit of the act itself.” The Information Commissioner is investigating.

The Vancouver Sun