FYI Ottawa, FOI imperfect

The rusty machination that serves as this country’s woeful freedom of information system isn’t issue enough to get Canadians rushing to the polls. But voters turn out if they get a sense government is being dishonest with the public.

The rusty machination that serves as this country’s woeful freedom of information system isn’t issue enough to get Canadians rushing to the polls. But voters turn out if they get a sense government is being dishonest with the public.

And while some segments of society will always be distrustful of government, more and more we hear how bureaucracy is being used to frustrate both individual citizens and mainstream media.

A recent study shows Canada’s freedom of information system (FOI) places last among five of its progressive peers on the world stage, including the U.K., Ireland, Australia and top-ranked New Zealand.

The British researchers concluded that Canada’s system has become antiquated and no longer serves as a model for others to follow. That’s not surprising as the world is a much different place than when Canada established its FOI system almost 30 years ago.

What isn’t clear is how many other countries have also overtaken Canada in easing access to government documents. Previous studies found that our country has fallen far behind after once leading the charge for open government.

Freedom of information is vital because it is intrinsically linked to the right to free speech. Canada and B.C. must do a better job of using new and emerging technologies to make it easier for citizens to readily gather information about the inner workings of our governments. If current governments – or those waiting for a chance to be elected – want to keep their parties viable, they’ll need to change the way they embrace transparency.

Canadians demand open and accessible government. It’s time for both the provincial and federal governments to take freedom of information seriously.

– Black Press