Government of Canada Improves Access to Information

I am impressed by this announcement. Why can’t other governments emphasize “that government information belongs to the people it serves and should be open by default”? (Ahem… looking at a certain neighbor to the south of Canada…)

The following announcement was written by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat:

TBSMay 5, 2016 – Ottawa

Today, President of the Treasury Board Scott Brison issued an Interim Directive on the Administration of the Access to Information Act (the Directive) that delivers on key commitments to make government more open and transparent.

The Directive sends a strong message across federal institutions that government information belongs to the people it serves and should be open by default. It also directs federal officials to:

  • Waive all Access to Information fees apart from the $5 filing fee; and
  • Release information in user-friendly formats (e.g. spreadsheets), whenever possible.

The Directive emphasizes that government information should be available to the public, except in very limited and specific situations when it must be protected for reasons such as privacy, confidentiality, and security.

This is another step the Government is taking to revitalize and strengthen Access to Information. The current public consultations and parliamentary study will inform the Government’s modernization of the Access to Information system. Next, the Government will table legislation to implement the rest of its commitments as outlined in the President of the Treasury Board’s mandate letter. The Act will be extended to apply appropriately to the Prime Minister’s and Minister’s offices; it will give the Information Commissioner the power to order the release of documents; and, it will require a full legislative review every five years.

Quick facts

  • Budget 2016 included the following measures on open government:
    • $12.9 million over five years to help the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) enhance Canadians’ access to government information, including their own personal information.
    • $11.5 million over five years to expand open data and open dialogue initiatives.
  • The Interim Directive applies to approximately 240 federal institutions and will be in place until the Access to Information Act goes through a full legislative review.
  • Information about the online consultation is posted on the Access to Information consultation site. Anyone interested in taking part can also tweet using the hashtag #RevitalizeATI.

Quotes

“The Government of Canada is taking another step forward on openness and transparency. This Directive delivers on key platform commitments and makes much-needed improvements to Access to Information immediately, by making it easier for Canadians to access government information in formats they can use.”

– Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board

6 Comments

Scott Brison is my MP (Member of Parliament, like a Congressman). His office is a few minutes down the road.

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Hi. Well, I can’t help but mention that access to information in Canada has, for years, been significantly more restrained than in the US. I cannot count the number of times Canadian news reporters have had to gain access to Canadian reports by using US access points. So, the announcement is welcome, but, here in Canada, we will await the results. And, of course, this affects national records only. For example, the British Columbia provincial government has indicated they have no intention of following the federal lead.

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Well, this Access to Information Act is actually in regard to things such as federal spending on various programs, travel expenses for high ranking officials, etc. The above announcement actually says that in cases involving “privacy and confidentiality” that the government is not planning to release any more information than they already do. Therefore this announcement does not seem to be of any benefit to genealogists at all. In fact, for the last few Canadian censuses, there is a strange question where the census asks people if they give the government permission to make their information public after 92 years have passed. They actually let individuals opt out of becoming public 92 years in the future. What a total pain in the neck this will be for the genealogists of the future. Luckily we now have a census every five years, so hopefully some of these ignorant people who say No on some censuses will say Yes on other censuses, therefore genealogists of the future will at least be able to find these people on some of the censuses.

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    Your census question about revealing information after 92 years is not unique to Canada, we have had the same thing in the last few Australian Censuses – except we have an opt-in process where you have to say you don’t mind keeping personal data and revealing it after 100 years. If Canada’s question is opt-out that is better.

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    Hi Graeme — actually, the question on the Canadian census is a yes or no question. There really isn’t a default setting where you can opt in or opt out. My mistake for the poor wording of my comment.

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Dorothy J. Smith May 11, 2016 at 3:16 pm

I just wish that the records for the 1700’s were available to us from other states and countries so that we could find our families in those years!!!!
I can’t get to Nova Scotia to search the archives for 1795 for the birth of my gggrandfather or his marriage in 1820 I got all the information on these dates from my grandmother who was born in Nova Scotia and she only knew who her grandparents were and their names and dates and those came from her mother!!
I have been doing my genealogy for 70 years now and am stuck on them.

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