OTTAWA / Sept. 28, 2019 / CNW — As 2019 Right to Know Week falls in the middle of a federal campaign, the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) calls on all federal parties, once again, to overhaul Canada’s broken Access to Information law—change that’s been promised and undelivered for years.
“This is not a partisan issue,” says Karyn Pugliese, president of the CAJ. “For decades we’ve heard from experts and stakeholders who’ve said that changes are desperately needed. The culture of secrecy firmly embedded in our public institutions cannot endure.”
Indeed, Canada’s access law has been left largely untouched since 1983.
“Over the years, as the way public officials exchange information has evolved dramatically—and changed all aspects of public life—the lack of progress across party lines is embarrassing,” says Pugliese.
Canada is painted as an international laggard in global freedom-of-information rankings, according to 2018 data provided by the Halifax-based Centre for Law and Democracy. Canada ranked 55th in the survey, outpaced by nations including Uganda, Yemen, and Pakistan.
In 2015, during the last federal campaign, the Trudeau Liberals campaigned on a platform that included promises to modernize Canada’s access law and to expand the number of offices, including ministers’ offices, that were subject to the Act.
Last year, the CAJ’s then-president Nick Taylor-Vaisey testified before a House of Commons committee on C-58. His testimony described how the legislation was marred by shortcomings. Pugliese later testified to the same effect at a Senate committee.
“Keeping government information that’s of vital public interest to Canadians under lock and key is not transparent,” says Pugliese. “The sheer number of incomplete access requests made by journalists across this country is shocking.”
Caroline Menard, Canada’s current information commissioner, is responsible for investigating how federal institutions handle access requests. She said last year that the number of complaints her office received has jumped 225 per cent over the last five years.
“Any progress simply boils down to a matter of political will,” Pugliese says. “Canada cannot afford to let another four years pass without action.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this news release incorrectly claimed Bill C-58 never received Royal Assent. In fact, the bill passed into law on June 21. The CAJ regrets the error.
The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with more than 700 members across Canada. The CAJ’s primary roles are public-interest advocacy work and professional development for its members.
For more information contact:
Karyn Pugliese, CAJ president
Brent Jolly, CAJ vice-president