Commissioner expresses concerns regarding the Government of Canada’s report on the review of Access to Information

Caroline Maynard, the Information Commissioner of Canada, released the following statement regarding the tabling of the Report to Parliament on the Government of Canada’s Review of Access to Information:

When the President of the Treasury Board launched the review of Access to Information in June of 2020, I was cautiously optimistic, given the scope of what the government put forward.

The Terms of Reference for the review promised an examination of the legislative framework, opportunities to improve proactive publication; and exploring ways to improve service and reduce delays.

I am greatly disappointed that this report does not appear to include concrete proposals to address the necessary changes to the Access to Information Act (the Act).

I sincerely hope that this does not signal that the Government has reached the limits of its willingness to improve the legislative framework. As I highlighted in my submission to the review, and as others have pointed out repeatedly, further changes to the law are indeed required.

While I am pleased that the government took note of some of the concerns I raised including the length of consultations between institutions and the lack of a declassification framework. I find it regrettable that no concrete commitments with firm timelines accompany this analysis. 

I also want to note that the government originally announced that the review would be completed by January 2022. The individuals who took the time to participate in this exercise—and indeed all Canadians—had a right to expect more. 

This report falls short of what is needed, namely concrete proposals to improve the Act and address the issues within the system. When it comes to the right of access, the status quo is unacceptable and Canadians deserve better. I urge the Government to act now, without further delay, to bring about a true reform of the access to information regime.

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