The story goes that Franklin Delano Roosevelt once met with a group of activists who wanted bold action. He listened and then said, “You’ve convinced me. Now go out and make me do it.”
BC’s new government is holding a consultation on updating our Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy legislation. On the basis of commitments made during the election, there is room for optimism. But if enough people and organizations respond to this consultation, perhaps we can persuade the government to take bold action.
During the election the BC NDP responded to a questionnaire from the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (BC FIPA), which can be found here.
They committed themselves to:
- Include “duty to document” in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
- Create penalties against those who interfere with information rights. (In their response, the BC NDP noted their previously proposed legislation creating a duty to investigate instances of unauthorized destruction of government information and removing legal immunity from officials who fail to disclose documents, which would make contraventions of the Act an offence subject to fines of up to $50,000.)
- Place limitations on the use of s.13 of the legislation to prevent the release of information.
- Make the use of s.12 of the legislation (Cabinet Confidences) discretionary. We note this is already done in Nova Scotia.
- Extend coverage of the legislation to capture subsidiaries created by public bodies.
- Amend s.25 (Public Interest Override) of the legislation to remove the requirement of “urgent circumstances” before disclosure of information which release is clearly in the public interest.
- Require mandatory notification of data breaches.
- End the practice of posting the texts of Freedom of Information requests it receives even before releasing any information to the requester.
- Ensure the retention of BC’s domestic data storage requirements in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The CCPA’s BC Office has submitted a response to the consultation and supported these commitments.
The CCPA-BC has asked the government to go further. Among other things, we have asked for private corporations delivering public services to be subject to Freedom of Information legislation. We have asked for specific actions to reduce costs and delays from using FOI.
When our legislation was introduced in the 1990s, it was among the best in the world. Since then the legislation has been undermined and other jurisdictions have gone far ahead of us.
If you want a more open and transparent government in BC, now is the time to tell them. When our legislation was introduced in the 1990s, it was among the best in the world. Since then the legislation has been undermined and other jurisdictions have gone far ahead of us.
Details on participating in this consultation can be found here. People are encouraged to make individual submissions: You can leave a message on the website here or here, or you can submit a written submission either in Word or PDF format here by April 9, 2018 at 4:00 PM.
You can support the CCPA submission, or you can comment on one or more items that are of particular interest to you.
If you want a lot more detail, you can read the whole submission made by the CCPA-BC to the Special Legislative Committee reviewing the legislation. Or you can read the valuable submissions from BC FIPA or the Centre for Law and Democracy. Journalist Stanley Tromp also made an extensive presentation that you can find here.
This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Remember Franklin Roosevelt’s words.