2017-2018 Protecting and Promoting Access
The Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) protects and promotes access to information rights in a number of ways.
The following is a summary of the outreach initiatives conducted during the last year of former Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault’s mandate.
Right to Know Conference
To celebrate Right to Know Week, former Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault hosted a conference in Ottawa on Right to Know Day, September 26, 2017. The theme of the conference was “Access to Information: A Fundamental Human Right”.
The conference featured two panels, one on access to information and human rights, and another on Bill C-58. The keynote speaker was Laura Neuman, director of the Global Access to Information Program at the Carter Center.
The conference provided an opportunity for experts to discuss access to information as the foundation for other rights, such as women’s rights, victims’ rights, and Indigenous rights. The conference also gathered a diverse panel to discuss Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.Footnote 1
2017 Grace-Pépin Award Recipient
The 2017 Grace-Pépin Access to Information Award was awarded to Darce Fardy during the Right to Know Conference.
For six decades, Mr. Fardy was a dedicated advocate for access to information. In his 43-year career at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, he shone a light on government activities.
He went on to become the first full-time Information and Privacy Review Officer of Nova Scotia. In his 10-year career as Review Officer, he wrote 150 reports, travelled the province to promote the right of access, and supported the work of coordinators by providing them with ongoing training.
Mr. Fardy then founded the Nova Scotia Right to Know Coalition, where he helped users make access requests and continued to promote access rights.
Collaborating with International, Federal, Provincial and Territorial Commissioners
International Conference of Information Commissioners
Information Commissioners and Deputy Information Commissioners from 39 jurisdictions met in Manchester, UK on September 21, 2017 for the 10th International Conference of Information Commissioners. Elizabeth Denham, UK Information Commissioner and Margaret Keyse, Acting Scottish Information Commissioner, hosted the conference.
At the close of the conference, the attending commissioners signed a joint resolution regarding the right of access to information and accountability of public services.Footnote 2 The signatories resolved to:
- where appropriate to their own national setting, encourage initiatives and programmes to improve access to information legislation in relation to contracted out services and service delivered by non-public organisations;
- promote global initiatives that provide standards for open contracting;
- set up a conference working group to share practice on initiatives that seek to improve access to information in relation to the delivery of public services by non-public organisations, reporting back to the 11th conference in 2019.
World Bank Regional Right to Information Workshop
Commissioner Legault attended a World Bank Regional Right to Information Workshop in Bangkok, Thailand from October 3 to 4, 2017 alongside information commissioners from a number of countries, most of whom represented countries in Southeast Asia. While there, she and her commissioner colleagues shared best practices and lessons learned.
Commissioner Legault provided the Canadian access to information perspective on two panels, one entitled “Assessing the Working of Information Commissioners”, and a second entitled “Access, Privacy and Data Protection”.
Meeting of the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Information and Privacy Commissioners
All Federal, Provincial and Territorial Information and Privacy Commissioners (IPCs) across Canada met in Iqaluit, Nunavut for their annual meeting from October 17 to 18, 2017.
During the two-day conference, the commissioners discussed issues surrounding solicitor client-privilege, and exchanged ideas and best practices on access to information and protection of privacy legislation reform, government data integration, and self-governing First Nations.
At the end of the conference, Canada’s IPCs issued a joint resolution on solicitor-client privilege, entitled “Safeguarding Independent Review of Solicitor-client privilege Claims”.Footnote 3 This joint resolution calls on governments to ensure that access to information and privacy legislation in every jurisdiction empowers IPCs to compel the production of records over which solicitor-client privilege has been claimed by public bodies to verify whether these claims are properly asserted when responding to requests for access to information.
Visit from Representatives of the South African Information Regulator
Commissioner Legault welcomed representatives from South Africa’s Information Regulator (the Regulator) to the OIC on January 24, 2018.
The Regulator is a newly created office in South Africa tasked with monitoring and enforcing compliance among public and private bodies with South Africa’s access to information and privacy protection laws.
Commissioner Legault and staff at the OIC shared best practices and policies to help the Regulator with its newly acquired mandate.
The Carter Centre’s International Conference on Women and Access to Information
Commissioner Legault attended an international conference hosted by the Carter Center on women and access to information entitled, “Inform Women, Transform Lives” from February 14 to 15, 2018.
The purpose of the conference was to identify and develop concrete recommendations to ensure the right to information, which benefits accountability, economic empowerment, and the promotion and protection of other rights, is equitably accessed by all. Commissioner Legault facilitated a working group dedicated to finding opportunities to integrate access to information for women into international conventions and instruments.
A resolution from the Carter Center on access to information and women is in development based on the work of this conference.
- Footnote 1
- Footnote 2
- Footnote 3