ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND PRIVACY

The principles of government transparency and personal privacy figured prominently in the discussions leading to the framing of the American Constitution. Thinkers such as Benjamin Franklin were of the view that all other freedoms would be of little consequnce if the government could peer into the lives of citizens and if citizens could not know the plans and deliberations of the state. These foundational rights are the basis of our federal and provincial legislation on Access to Information [1] and Privacy [2].

The Supreme Court of Canada has long hence described the ATIP laws as pillars of democracy, and laws of constitutional importance.

The federal Access to Information Act reflects three principles: that government information should be available to the public; that necessary exceptions to the right of access should be limited and specific; and that decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently of government.[3]

The federal Privacy Act imposes obligations on some 250 federal government departments and agencies to respect privacy rights by limiting the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. The Privacy Act gives individuals the right to access and request correction of personal information about themselves held by these federal government organizations.[4]

The federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act [“PEPEDA”] sets out ground rules for how private sector organizations may collect, use or disclose personal information in the course of commercial activities. The law gives individuals the right to access and request correction of the personal information these organizations may have collected about them.[5]

A number of provincial statutes provide similar protections in their own jurisdictions. [6]

While reforms have been proposed to ATIP legislation, the principal challenge for Canadian residents has been the willingness of governments to be transparent and to respond to demands for information and corrections of government information in a timely fashion.

Given the myriad rules and substantial backlogs that confront us, the proper framing of requests and complaints and effective interactions with government essential to protecting rights and acquiring information under the ATIP legislation

Guidance is available from both federal Commissioners [7] and I will be supplementing this information on this site.  I am also available to provide advice and assistance in these matters.

[1] http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/A-1/index.html

[2]  Privacy Act  http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/P-21/index.html

PEPEDA : http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/P-8.6/index.html

[3] http://www.oic-ci.gc.ca/eng/lc-cj-abl-apl.aspx

[4] http://www.priv.gc.ca/fs-fi/02_05_d_15_e.cfm#contenttop

[5] http://www.priv.gc.ca/fs-fi/02_05_d_15_e.cfm#contenttop

[6] http://www.oic-ci.gc.ca/eng/links-liens.aspx

[7] Privacy Commissioner: http://www.priv.gc.ca/resource/ii_e.cfm

Information commissioner: http://www.oic-ci.gc.ca/eng/lc-cj-logde-complaint-deposer-plainte.aspx; http://www.oic-ci.gc.ca/eng/lc-cj-make-request-demande-acces.aspx

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