Written explanation to requestors

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Proposal

When information cannot be released, provide requestors with a written explanation.

Background

Currently, government institutions are required to inform requestors of the specific exemptions or exclusions applied under the Access to Information Act in responding to a request. They do not have to describe the exception applied when doing so could reveal the very information that must be protected.

At the moment, institutions are not required to provide an explanation as to why a certain section of the Act was applied.

Over 30,000 exemptions and exclusions were applied in the more than 67,000 requests processed by government institutions in 2014-.  The most-often applied exemptions were:

Although providing more explanation may take additional time and effort, requestors may gain a better understanding of the Act's careful balancing between access and the protection of privacy, confidentiality and security.

British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario specify the section of their legislation under which access was refused and explain why the section was applied.

Internationally, the governments of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand also specify the section of their legislation under which access was refused and provide detailed explanations as to why the section was applied.

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Comments

Submitted by John O'Brien on May 23, 2016 - 11:07 PM

If the request is rejected, then the reason for that rejection is known. Write it down and send it out. I'm unsure what is confusing about this...?

Submitted by Michael Welsh on May 15, 2016 - 1:00 PM

The current law would be better labelled "The civil servant's guide to deny the public's right to know". Any reform should put the emphasis on how government information must be released, not offer a litany of reasons/excuses for preventing it. This particular suggestion is just token reform as it allows the institution simply to cite the section of the law - how could that ever constitute a meaningful "explanation"? The civil service should not be tasked with reform of the current Act or process since it makes no sense to ask the same civil servants who have an interest in frustrating access to information to come up with reforms on how to make it work. Too much conflict of interest at play here!