#FollowFriday: Government Transparency

Thursday, June 27, 2013
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By: Spencer Livingstone #FollowFriday is an opportunity for CJFE to showcase Canadian individuals and groups doing important work in the field of free expression. In recent years, the Canadian government has committed itself to the Access to Information Act, which was passed 30 years ago. In December 2012, Treasury Board President Tony Clement went as far as to say, “Our government is the most transparent government in Canadian history. There has never been a time when Canadians have had as much access to government information.” While these may be endearing and pleasant words to hear, they are far from the truth. Of the 93 countries that have right to information legislation, Canada ranks 55th in transparency. In 2011, a report on access to information by University College London, published in Government Information Quarterly, found Canada to be the worst of the five parliamentary democracies analyzed. CJFE has written extensively on the issue of access to information; reports can be found on our website and in our latest annual Review of Free Expression. For anyone curious about Canadian access to information news and analysis, here are some Twitter accounts to follow: Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada. @OIC_CI_Canada -The Information Commissioner of Canada primarily reviews complaints regarding the handling of requests made to the federal government about their holding of information. Under the Access to Information Act, Canadians can fill out a request to have public access to government information, which can be found here . The commissioner attempts to mediate disputes between information applicants and government institutions. Their Twitter page carries developments and news about access to information across the country. Cindy Blackstock. @cblackst -Ms. Blackstock was the victim of a now highly publicized account of the Canadian government viewing and keeping records of her personal and private information. Blackstock sent a request to view the files the government has kept on her under the Access to Information Act, and occasionally has Tweets on this subject. Wikileaks. @wikileaks -Although not based in Canada, Wikileaks reveals the extent to which a government can potentially, albeit illegally, withhold information from its citizens. There are tweets several times a day relating to cases of information held by the government that citizens do not have access to. It is a fascinating insight into the degree to which a government can be opaque. Open Government Partnership. @opengov -OGP is an international organization seeking to promote transparency between government and citizens. They believe that having governments be more open about their operations also makes them more accountable. Their Twitter page frequently updates its followers on the organization’s programs and recent actions.

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