Sunday, June 24, 2012

Canada drifting down in openness rankings

Once at the cutting edge of openness in government Canada now finds itself tied for 51st out of 89 countries ranked in terms of their openness. The 30th anniversary of Canada's Access to Information Act is coming up. At the time of passage the Act was regarded as quite progressive but little has been done to improve matters since while many other countries have moved forward. Canada is actually behind Angola, Colombia and Niger!

The Canadian Access to Information act passed in July of 1983 requires an application plus a five dollar fee to access a wide variety of records. Agencies and Departments are to respond within 30 days. However it can actually take over half a year or even more. Even when responses do come only a trickle of information may be released.

Activist groups have been calling for modernization of the act but the government has refused to act calling the thirty year old act a strong piece of legislation. The rankings report says of the Canadian system:"Canada's lax time lines, imposition of access fees, lack of a proper public interest override, and blanket exemptions for certain political offices all contravene international standards for the right of access," "Canada's antiquated approach to access to information is also the result of a lack of political will to improve the situation." They certainly have that right and as long as the present Conservative government is in power that will probably not change. For much more see this article.

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