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Right to Know Week

For the first time, events were held across Canada to recognize "Right to Know Day". Canada is a bit late in joining this international movement, which began in Sofia, Bulgaria, on September 28, 2002. On that date, a group of openness-in-government advocates from three dozen countries formed a coalition known as the "Freedom of Information Advocates Network." They declared that every September 28th would be an international day to symbolize the global movement for the promotion of the individual right of access to information and open transparent governance. The day, or week, is celebrated around the world in many of the more than 70 countries that have right to know statutes.

Over the years, there have emerged certain principles that form the core of the right to know. They are expressed well by the Open Society Justice Initiative, formed with other organizations in honour of the Right to Know Day celebrations in 2003. These ten principles are:

  1. Access to information is a right of everyone.
  2. Access is the rule - secrecy is the exception!
  3. The right applies to all public bodies.
  4. Making requests should be simple, speedy, and free.
  5. Officials have a duty to assist requestors.
  6. Refusals must be justified.
  7. The public interest takes precedence over secrecy.
  8. Everyone has the right to appeal an adverse decision.
  9. Public bodies should proactively publish core information.
  10. The right should be guaranteed by an independent body.

Canada has come a long way to fulfill these principles.

It was the information commissioners in all Canadian jurisdictions who took the lead in "kicking off" Canada’s first Right to Know celebrations. Their goal was to help Canadians be more aware of the existence of the right of access in Canada and to better appreciate how essential this right is to a healthy democracy.

Right to Know Week 2006 in Canada was a good start; there is comforting evidence that the various events across the country attracted considerable public attention and enthusiasm for making this an annual event. For a brief description of various events throughout Canada, please visit the Information Commissioner’s website.

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