Commissioner Welcomes Parliamentary Committee’s Report on Fixing Access to Information

Gatineau, June 21, 2023 – Following the tabling of the report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (ETHI) on the Access to Information system in Parliament yesterday, the Information Commissioner has released the following statement:

“This July will mark 40 years since the Access to Information Act came into force. As this law enters its fifth decade, it is definitely showing its age.

To make matters worse, after a two-and-a-half year wait, the report on the Government of Canada’s Review of Access to Information released last December proved to be anticlimactic. Simply put, the Government’s report was a letdown, offering neither suggestions for legislative change nor proposals for immediate concrete action.

That’s why the recommendations in the report tabled by ETHI yesterday could not have come at a better time.

It is clear that a great deal of care and deliberation went into crafting this report. Many of its recommendations are in line with those found in my submission to the Government’s review, or logical measures to address the findings of my investigations into systemic issues at institutions like Library and Archives Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

I would like to thank the members of this committee for investing the time and energy required to hear from a number of witnesses, myself included, over the past few months. Their commitment has resulted in a number of recommendations that I strongly believe could have a positive impact on enhancing access to information —but this can only happen if we break the current cycle of reviews and reports that go nowhere. For too long, Canada’s broken Access to Information system has seen study after study which generates observations and potentially useful ideas, only to see very few lead to concrete improvements or greater transparency.

Recommendations such as those found in this report can only translate into actual results if the Government takes heed of them and commits to their implementation.

Transparency is a pillar of democracy that must be continuously defended and strengthened. In 2023, this means change is imperative—change not only for the access to information system, but also the 40-year-old law that serves as its foundation. Anyone thinking otherwise has clearly not been listening.

As Information Commissioner, I urge the Government to examine ETHI’s recommendations closely and to reconsider its position that no additional changes to the law are necessary at this time. As the report amply demonstrates, this is not the case”.

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