5.13.2011

"a significant reduction in accountability and transparency", or why we may never know which cic staffer is paid to read wmtc

Emphasis mine, in more ways than one.
The federal Information Commissioner and other access-to-information experts say a Supreme Court ruling denying the release of ministerial documents marks a significant reduction in government accountability and transparency.

Critics said Friday the ruling will allow the government to withhold any information simply by taking it out of the hands of a department and placing it in the closed confines of a ministerial office.

Some of the records the Supreme Court said could not be disclosed “were the only records of very important meetings that occurred between the Minister of Defence and the deputy minister of the Department of National Defence,” Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault told a news conference Friday.

“I think Canadians should be seriously concerned that these meetings take place and that in this instance the only records of some of those records are no longer accessible.”

Madame Justice Louise Charron said in a ruling released Friday that requesters have the right to be given “any record under the control of a government institution,” which includes the Privy Council Office and all government departments.

But the Prime Minister’s Office and other ministers’ offices are not government institutions and documents held within them are not meant to be open to the same public scrutiny, the court ruled. Judge Charron said she was convinced a two-step test set up by the courts will provide a screening mechanism to ensure the government does not place documents in an inaccessible “black hole.”

. . . .

Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin, who is one of the country’s top access-to-information experts, said: “As a long time observer, and one who has been in court [to challenge ATI decisions], it means that this country, unless we actually drastically change the legislation, is in for even greater secrecy.”

The ruling, he said, “just sets the bar lower for all kinds of records” that can now be denied because the government does not want them to be released. “If you want to avoid releasing things,” Mr. Rubin said, “you just intertwine things and label them political.”

The War Resisters Support Campaign has been trying for two years to use access laws to find out the name and work contact information of a government employee, possibly in a minister’s office, who was monitoring the online communications of Canadian supporters of U.S. Iraq War resisters. This ruling make that quests even more difficult, Ken Marciniec said, a spokesman for the campaign.

“If ministers are able to withhold any information they choose simply by saying it belongs to their offices,” Mr. Marciniec said, “it will be even harder to find out why Canadians' legal and legitimate online communications are being monitored or to determine if political staff are interfering in supposedly impartial, arms-length decisions like those that are made by immigration officials who depend on the Immigration Minister for their jobs.”
Those online communications? That would be wmtc: internal documents show harper govt obsessed with war resisters, and hello cic, nice to see you're still reading wmtc.

This marks the first Canada-related post I tag as "fascist shift".

2 comments:

laura k said...

And as if Harper doesn't have enough power...

boyd reimer said...

This ruling not only increases suspicion about future government dealings, but the ruling also significantly erodes faith in the Supreme Court itself........ because it's very difficult to believe that the Supreme Court could not be aware of the possible impact of their ruling.....even before they made the ruling.

Therefore, yes, this is very serious!

(and therefore thanks for underlining / alerting people)