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A NEW DIRECTION

Message from the Commissioner
 img19.jpg As the 25th anniversary of the Access to Information Act approaches, there is unprecedented discussion in the media, in the corridors of Parliament and the public service, and even around Canadians' kitchen tables, about freedom of information. As Information Commissioner, this delights me. It is imperative that all Canadians recognize the importance of debating the subject and keeping it in the public eye. Freedom of information is a hallmark of the democracy we all cherish.

In my first year as Information Commissioner, I have taken every available opportunity to emphasize this point.

Fostering a culture of openness in government requires an approach that embraces an ombudsman's full range of influence to effect positive change and enhance transparency in government. I take my role as an ombudsman seriously and see it as the true fulfillment of the position of Information Commissioner. In particular, I wish to be a strong advocate for the duty of all federal institutions to help in any way they can the individuals and organizations who request information from them to get that information.

During the first year of my term, I began to move the Office of the Information Commissioner in a new direction, one that takes a new approach to our work and involves strong policy development, active communications and top-notch client service.

The challenges we faced that warranted this new direction were significant. The Office of the Information Commissioner required profound institutional changes to address inherent weaknesses that were significantly limiting our ability to do our job and to respond to new responsibilities stemming from the Federal Accountability Act. The activities described in this annual report show how I have turned my ideas into action in my first year in office.

My three distinguished predecessors-Inger Hansen, John Grace and the Honourable John Reid-oversaw the Access to Information Act with vision, care and professionalism. Now it is time, in this 25th anniversary year, to assess the soundness of the law. Given that some of the problems these commissioners faced are still with us, it is important to take stock of how the legislation has evolved over the years and to look to the future and a strengthened access to information system in Canada.

I commend this annual report to anyone who wishes to know what I have done so far as Canada's fourth Information Commissioner to meet my most important goal of ensuring that the access to information system is functioning in the best interests of Canadians. This report lays the foundation for what I expect to achieve as my term unfolds.

My first year was one of considerable progress in building our capacity to serve. I know that as we continue to develop the Office's core functions, I will be able to count on the support of my dedicated and hard-working staff.


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