Canadian Commissioner Extends Period for Comment

17 December 2012

The Information Commissioner of Canada has extended the deadline for comments on modernizing the almost 30-year-old Access to Information Act.

The “open dialogue” will now run until Jan. 31, 2013.  About a dozen submissions have been made since the effort was begun Sept. 28 by commissioner Suzanne Legault. She plans to provide recommendations to Parliament in September, 2013.

The frameworks for the review and the comments received to date are posted on the website.  A history of reform proposals is also available.

Five general questions are posed on the site along with a more detailed set of specific questions. The general questions are:

In an environment of increasing globalization, should any person be able to obtain government held records, notwithstanding their physical presence or citizenship?

Should all federal entities be subject to the Act as a matter of principle, or should some be exempt from the Act’s requirements? What criteria or principles should determine which entity is covered by the Act?

In what circumstances should a universal right of access be limited? Should federal institutions have the discretion to limit disclosure? If so, should they be required to demonstrate that a defined injury, harm or prejudice will probably result from disclosure? Should the public interest be considered in the decision to withhold records?

Should the Access to Information Act exclude records that directly inform Cabinet decisions? If the exclusion is permitted, on what should it be based? Should the Information Commissioner be able to review Cabinet confidences?

What role can or should the Office of the Information Commissioner play in helping Canadians to become more aware of their rights under the Access to Information Act?

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