Statement for Right to Know Week
Each year, the International Day for Universal Access to Information serves as a useful signpost for Canadians as we take stock of our progress toward greater government transparency.
So at the start of this year’s Right to Know Week, I pose a familiar question: Are things moving in the right direction, or did government stray from the path in 2022?
Regrettably, it appears to be the latter.
Just last week, I met with my provincial and territorial counterparts in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, to discuss the deficiencies and shortcomings we have observed across our respective jurisdictions in the area of access over the past several months. We all agreed that our leaders must be held accountable for access to information. In far too many cases, government institutions are experiencing continued and ongoing deterioration in performance in the area of access. While in some instances, we see leaders taking their responsibilities seriously, this level of commitment must become the norm across all institutions. With one voice, all must collectively communicate the importance of the right of access for Canadians.
As I have repeatedly indicated, Canada’s Access to Information Act provides no dispensation from its requirements, even in extraordinary circumstances. Because access delayed is access denied, our leaders must heed the hard lessons the pandemic has taught. If we are to provide Canadians with the useful and relevant information to which they are entitled in a timely manner, the proper management of government records and the use of technology to facilitate access to these holdings is of prime importance.
With government institutions beginning to transition to hybrid work, I call upon leaders to redouble their efforts and ensure that their organizations treat access to information as a collective responsibility. We all have a role to play in ensuring that the Right of Access is upheld.
Information Commissioner of Canada