“Back-engineering” of the Access to Information and its slow descent into irrelevance

backlog2The access to information regime at the Federal level is at a relative standstill labouring under a two-year backlog of complaints.  Meanwhile, the Office of the Information Commissioner ((OIC) is both busy advocating for a wall-to-wall review of the Access to Information Act. and the granting of order-making power. This would be a form of back-engineering  of the original concept of operation of the access to information regime in Canada and actually transform the OIC into an administrative tribunal giving rise to a serious apprehension that the current excessive backlog of complaints will get worse not better.

Now that the responsible Minister for the administration of the Access to Information Act (ATIA), the President of the Treasury Board,  has called upon the public for comments and input with the aim of reforming the Act in 2018, the OIC should return to and focus on its single mandate; the investigation of complaints and noting more. In the meanwhile, serious consideration should be given to significantly reduce the current heavy overhead so that the complement of investigators be returned to it prior level.

baclogThe present backlog (which includes several complaints going back six (6) years or more) is depriving ATIA users with a right to apply to the Federal Court in order to gain access to records requested from federal institutions.  Bluntly put, the OIC is a big part of the persistent problem of delays in obtaining the disclosure of records under the ATIA – where federal institutions are MONTHS in arrears in disclosing records, the OIC is YEARS in arrears in completing the investigation of complaints.  In the meanwhile, ATI users are either impatiently fuming or simply abandoning their rights to submit ATI requests. After all, who wants to wait two years or more to gain access to records?

In the article below, a plea is made to have the Office of the Auditor General conduct a systemic audit of both the OIC and the ATIP offices of federal institutions subject to the ATIA.

SEE ARTICLE by M. W. Drapeau in HILL TIMES on April 4, 2016Hill Times article (ATi irrelevance)

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