FOI/RTI Reform

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FOI / RTI Reform

Canada needs to become more transparent

Canada needs to drastically improve its freedom of information (FOI) / right to information (RTI) legislation. Its existing legislation is too much a secrecy act and not working well, contrary to the myths officials put forward. It may be necessary tactically to go after selective changes to overcome such resistance but the object is to move towards, not away from, achieving greater transparency. The new government under Justin Trudeau has yet to pass a full transparency bill. And its legislative bill effort is widely seen as regressive.

A broader transparency bill needs to feature a pro active disclosure code and agreements and draw from other countries. Back in 2009, I had presented to a parliamentary committee a model FOI/RTI bill that mostly addressed gaining better access to government information.

Two suggested recent FOI reform efforts, one in the form of a private members bill by Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, the other in the form of a special report by Canada’s Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault, fall far short. Recent legislation such as the anti terrorist act, Bill C-51, significantly adds to and enhances secrecy practices in Canada. Canada can learn from other countries adopting FOI/RTI legislation and from under way international efforts at achieving greater transparency.

For FOI / RTI reform to occur, there needs to be both the will to do so and commitment and a natural desire to know, to be curious. We cannot have a right to know without citizenry who value their rights to freedom of expression and have a critical desire to inform and be informed.

My career has been built around testing the public’s right to know and getting that right dramatically improved. I challenge all of us to take up the cause of a more transparent society. I’m still there to be an information warrior along with you