Access to Information Act

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Access to Information Act
Parliament-Ottawa.jpg
An Act to extend the present laws of Canada that provide access to information under the control of the Government of Canada
Citation Access to Information Act
Enacted by Parliament of Canada
Date assented to 1985

Access to Information Act (R.S., 1985, c. A-1) or Information Act is a Canadian act providing the right of access to information under the control of a government institution. It declares that government information should be available to the public, but with necessary exceptions to the right of access should be limited and specific, and that decisions on the disclosure of any government information should always be reviewed independently of government.[citation needed]

By 1982, twelve countries, including the France, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the U.S. (1966), had enacted modern ATI legislation.[1] Canada's Access to Information Act came into force in 1983, under the Pierre Trudeau government, permitting Canadians to retrieve information from government files, establishing what information could be accessed, mandating timelines for response.[2] This is enforced by the Information Commissioner of Canada.[citation needed]

There is also a complementary Privacy Act, introduced in 1983. The purpose of the Privacy Act is to extend the present laws of Canada that protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves held by a federal government institution and that provide individuals with a right of access to that information. It is a Crown copyright. Complaints for possible violations of the Act may be reported to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.[citation needed]

Canadian access to information laws distinguish between access to records generally and access to records that contain personal information about the person making the request. Subject to exceptions, individuals have a right of access to records that contain their own personal information under the Privacy Act but the general public does not have a right of access to records that contain personal information about others under the Access to Information Act.[citation needed]

From 1989 to 2008, requests made to the federal government were catalogued in the Coordination of Access to Information Requests System.[citation needed]

Proposed changes[edit]

In 1987, the Solicitor General of Canada tabled a unanimous report to Parliament, Open and Shut: Enhancing the Right to Know and the Right to Privacy which contained over 100 recommendations for amending the ATI and privacy acts.[citation needed]

In 1998, the government would append a clause to the Access Act, making it a federal offence to destroy, falsify, or conceal public documents.[citation needed]

In August 2000, the Ministry of Justice and the president of the Treasury Board launched a task force to review the Access Act. The committee’s report, delivered in June 2002, found “a crisis in information management” within government.[citation needed]

Université de Moncton professor Donald Savoie’s 2003 book, Breaking the Bargain, argues that in Canada there is a reluctance to put anything in writing, including e-mail, that might find its way into public discourse.[citation needed]

In the fall of 2003, John Bryden, attempted to initiate a comprehensive overhaul of the Act through a private members bill, Bill C-462, which died on the Order Paper with the dissolution of the 37th Parliament in May 2004. A similar bill was introduced by NDP MP Pat Martin on 7 October 2004 as Bill C-201.

In April 2005, the Justice Minister Irwin Cotler introduced a discussion paper entitled A Comprehensive Framework for Access to Information Reform.[3]

In September 2008, a 393 page report sponsored by several Canadian newspaper groups, compared Canada’s Access to Information Act to the FOI laws of the provinces and of 68 other nations titled: Fallen Behind: Canada’s Access to Information Act in the World Context.[citation needed]

In October 2010, an international comparison of access to government information ranked Canada last; a significant change from only a decade before when the country often served as a model for freedom of information internationally. The University College London study comparing Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland was published in Government Information Quarterly.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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