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Information Commissioner tables Special Report on Interference with Access to Information
, March 21, 2011 - Information Commissioner of Canada, Suzanne Legault, tabled today in Parliament a Special Report entitled Interference with Access to Information, Part 1.
This special report relates to an investigation by the Commissioner into a complaint by a news agency, when she found that a former member of the
then-Minister's political staff at Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) interfered with the right to access information under the Access to Information Act (the Act). The report also provides background information regarding the relevant political and bureaucratic environment and the legal framework.
"The results of the investigation highlight a significant limitation in the Act. The law was drafted such that it is very difficult to ensure that political staff members are held accountable for interference with the Act." Commissioner Legault added that, "In particular, the confidentiality provisions of the Act make it impossible for the Commissioner to directly refer matters of interference involving political staff members to law enforcement agencies for investigation and possible criminal prosecution."
To address this gap, as well as other deficiencies, Legault recommends a review of the relevant sections of the Act to ensure that the Information Commissioner may respond fully and appropriately to all instances of alleged interference.
Legault plans to publish two more special reports that will address allegations of interference in a broader context at PWGSC and interference as a systemic issue causing delays.
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A full copy of the report is available here.