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An Access Case Unfolds:
Bank of Canada – Up In Smoke

Here’s one FOI example. In Ottawa, our capital city where I live, one day several years ago, I was walking down an downtown street when all of a sudden I smelt noxious fumes and was almost overcome by them. Workers were forced from their downtown office buildings.

Being curious, I noted that smoke was coming from down the street, at of all places, from the Bank of Canada building.

Getting nowhere through an informal inquiry, I filed a federal Access to Information request with that agency. I asked about the incident in my request but as is my style, I asked for more records on their occupational health test results and other toxic incidents at the Bank of Canada.

Several weeks later, the Bank of Canada, which is our central bank, replied. Low and behold, the incident was embarrassing. Records eventually obtained revealed that the Bank was burning confidential computer tapes in their incinerator usually used to burn old money. Their incinerator was not working properly and the resulting chemical emissions was what I and others encountered. No one affected filed legal complaints but who knows what damage was done to human health. The data obtained was provided to a national wire service and became a front page story.

The access request results also indicated that workers at the Bank of Canada complained about eye irritation brought on by the fresh crisp money bills. Another Bank of Canada $30,000 report indicated that if someone were to ingest 193,103 new $50 bills with the new anti-forgery squares on them, that person could then die have, if he or she ever was able to digest that many bills! That became another front page story.