Delays leave access to information rights ‘totally obliterated’

TheGlobeandMail.com –
Published on Tuesday, Apr. 13, 2010.    Bill Curry

Canada’s access to information laws are on the verge of becoming completely meaningless due to chronic delays and foot dragging, a new report warns.

Released today by interim Access to Information Commissionier Suzanne Legault, the report says growing delays are eroding Canadians’ right to obtain documents from their government.

“This right is at risk of being totally obliterated because delays threaten to render the entire access regime irrelevant in our current information economy,” Ms. Legault writes.

“The status quo whereby citizens want information that the government wants to control no longer works. The technical arcana of bureaucracy are neither a reasonable explanation nor an excuse for increasingly lengthy delays.”

The report comes as the Conservative government is immersed in battles over documents on several fronts. Opposition MPs, through an order of the House of Commons, are demanding all documents related to detainees in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Chief of Staff, Guy Giorno, is scheduled to appear today before a Commons committee to respond to reports of ministerial aides interfering to delay or block the release of information.

Damning conclusions from the Access to Information Commissioner are nothing new in Ottawa. Yet Mr. Harper came to office in 2006 after making open, transparent government and revived Access to Information policies a central campaign promise.

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