I call upon heads of federal institutions to set the example, by providing clear direction and guidance on how information is to be managed in this new operating environment.
It is vital that Ministers ensure that the necessary resources, processes and tools are in place so that the institutions can meet their obligations under the Act. The buck stops with them.
I hope that my requests to meet with members of cabinet will allow me to highlight this need for leadership from the top. With appropriate leadership and bold choices, this difficult period could prove to be the catalyst for a true renewal of the access system sought by so many.
Duty to Document
If the government is to inspire the confidence in Canadians and successfully navigate this challenging period as a nation, timely decision-making and the proper documentation of both the decisions and any resulting actions must go hand-in hand.
It is only by being fully transparent, and respecting good information management practices and the right of access, that the government can build an open and complete public record of decisions and actions taken during this extraordinary period in our history—one that will inform future public policy decisions.
Do Not Delay
No need to wait for legislative change. Take immediate action on four areas I highlighted in the first part of my submission to Minister Duclos.
The government’s approach should include a greater focus on voluntary disclosure of data and decisions related to the pandemic, as a way to mitigate some of the burden on institutions in responding to access requests.
The Access to Information Act gives a right to access information under the control of government institutions. The Act also provides a right to complain to the Information Commissioner about matters related to an access request made under the Act, such as the following:
the institution’s response to the request
the fact that the institution did not respond to the request
how an institution treated the request.
Individuals may also complain about other matters related to requesting and accessing records under Part 1 of the Act, even if they did not make an access request.