ICE blogs

December 12, 2007

‘Disturbing’ trend towards secrecy in Canada

Filed under: Uncategorized, Headlines — news_editor @ 12:21 am

A nation-wide study of freedom of information by the Canadian Newspaper Association has found a ‘disturbing’ trend towards excessive secrecy by public bodies. The CNA sent 60 journalists from 39 newspapers to hospitals, police headquarters and other public institutions. Requests over basic issues such as health spending and crime were rejected in 31 per cent of cases or answered only after lengthy delays or payment of large fees. Anne Kothawala, president and CEO of the CNA, told a news conference in Toronto: ‘Governments cannot be held accountable when freedom-of-information laws are flouted. We’re talking about a fundamental democratic right.’
In 2005, the CNA filed a complaint over discriminatory government practices in managing media requests under the Access to Information Act. Kothawala said: ‘Two years ago we presented evidence to the Office of the Information Minister that government officials had a policy of “amber-lighting” or “red-flagging” so-called “sensitive” requests, and that media requests tended to get flagged in this way, resulting in illegitimate processing delays and high rates of refusal. Instead of looking at that evidence, the Information Commissioner’s Office surveyed government departments on their processes. It’s like interviewing all the suspects at a crime scene, without taking statements from the victims.’

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