Canadian Law Needs Improvement, Groups Say

12 October 2012

Canada should begin broad consultations as a first step to bringing its Access to Information Act into line with international standards, and officials “should improve their compliance with the spirit of the Act,” according to five civil society groups.

The conclusions came in a submission to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process on Canada made by the Centre for Law and Democracy, the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada and Pen Canada.

In particular, officials should exercise their discretion to extend timelines, waive fees and allow the application of exceptions, the submission concluded.

When Canada adopted its law in 1982 it was considered to be something of a world leader, but now a comparative assessment of all national RTI laws by the Centre for Law and Democracy and Access Info Europe places Canada in “a very poor 55th place.”

Problems include “lax rules regarding the timelines for responding to requests.”

Canada’s also “fails to impose clear limits on the cost of accessing information, leading to excessive charges being demanded.”

The law contains “a significantly overbroad regime of exceptions,” according to the submission, which also covers other media and freedom of expression topics.

The Information Commissioner of Canada on Sept. 28  launched consultations on how to improve the act. She announced her intention to hold consultations in July.  (See previous report.)

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