My legal and consulting practice mostly deals with helping clients with privacy issues. However, I’ve also spent a fair amount of time writing about freedom to information issues, and I do occasionally help clients on issues associated with access to government-held information.
In December 2013, one of my clients asked me to file a request on their behalf with the Department of National Defence. That request was delayed, and by the following spring, a package of information was released, but it was heavily redacted. The redactions were, in my opinion, unwarranted, so we filed a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Would you be surprised if I told you that this week, the commissioner’s investigator wrote to me indicating that they have started looking into it? Holy moly! Five years after making a request. An indication that our ATIP process is broken.
It’s not just the access side that is mired in unreasonable delays. There are also big delays in the privacy side. How did things get this way? And what is the fix — changing or modernizing the way things are investigated, more powers to turn away complaints or more funding to deal with them all? Or is it all the above?
The delays alone are presumably an impediment, and likely even a deterrent, to making a complaint and exercising that right in the first place.
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