Over the Thanksgiving weekend, the Federal Government quietly announced that it would be starting a pilot in 2014 to allow people to file Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) requests online. With the current system for filing ATIP requests having been established in 1982, with only additional red tape added to the pile since its inception, the development of an online system is step forward for Canada. Unfortunately, the pilot will only include Citizenship and Immigration, Shared Services Canada and the Treasury Board Secretariat(1), which will limit the kinds of ATIP requests that can be filed.
Unlike Mexico, which has had online Access to Information requests available for several years, and the USA, which launched its system earlier this year, Canada has become a laggard in releasing information in a timely fashion. A recent audit of ATIP requests conducted by Newspapers Canada found that most areas of government, whether Federal, Provincial or Municipal, were not up to par in regards to completing ATIP requests(2). With the Federal Government completing only half of their requests within the 30-day statutory deadline, the ability for Canadians to reliably access information is far from the envy of the world. The country now ranks 40th out of 89 countries that allow similar requests for information(3).
Despite the Harper Government’s record for being the least transparent Canadian Government of all time, they have made several important steps toward modernizing the way government collects, stores, and allows access to information. Despite the cut in valuable information the extremely shortened census created, it reduced what was collected and stored to a minimal amount. It also changed the way a census is conducted, with many respondants opting to utilize the online option. Additionally, the removal of the long-gun registry lightened the amount of personal information stored in government offices, giving many of us some of our privacy back.
Another huge step forward, that has been both underutilized and underpublicized, is the launch of open.gc.ca, the Conservative Government’s attempt at Open Government. This initiative has three main goals: to provide open data, open information, and open dialogue. Designed to have information proactively released online to Canadians, while offering it up in a more accessible and searchable manner, the Cons “Open Government” initiative is something to be applauded. Unfortunately, many are dissatisfied with the limited use of the site, as well as its abject failure to release information pro-actively. Given the way the government has restricted the free-flow of information, as seen in regards to both the F-35 purchases and the recent meat recall, the future of the intiative remain in question.
Hopefully, as online ATIP requests begin the open government site will host the completed ATIP requests as they are issued. This will greatly increase the value of the website, and simultaneously take the Federal Government a huge step toward the transparency that Canadians deserve. There is a long road ahead for Canadians to have easy, reliable and searchable access to government information. Moving ATIP requests online is definitely a step in the right direction, even if Canada is late to the party.
Popularity: 5% [?]
love this site – it’s a great blog – may i suggest you get an rss feed.
There are no trackbacks on this entry.