Tuesday, February 09, 2010

More on Information Commissioner investigating Paradis' office

Le Devoir (translation) has more today on the Information Commissioner's investigation that has been opened "...on the interference of the Office of Federal Minister Christian Paradis in a matter of access to information." Some details (from the translation):
According to information obtained from reliable sources, the investigation of the Information Commissioner touches including Articles 67 and 67.1 of the Act on Access to Information. Article 67 reads: "No person shall obstruct the Information Commissioner or any person acting on behalf or under his authority in exercising the powers and functions conferred on him under this Act."

Section 67.1 concerns the illegal modification of a document, the concealment of a document or even encourage people to commit acts that go against the law. A sentence of imprisonment or fines can be imposed.
This investigation arises out of the facts in the CP reporting this weekend documenting their access to information request to Public Works, its approval by the Access to Information Office at Public Works and the subsequent blocking of the information by Paradis' parliamentary staffer.

Also of note in Le Devoir's story, news of a system of two tracks for access to information requests. Apparently citizen initiated requests are treated "more quickly" and on a "less protected" basis (unclear exactly what that means) yet media initiated requests take a political route through the Harper Ministers' offices. And we know what that means, practically speaking, as we know that the PMO is not exactly big into decentralized decision-making. Not sure if this is the first time we're hearing about this two track system or not, it appears new to me in its becoming public but something that would have been suspected, yes.

If this is the case, that media - or any other - access to information requests are being treated for the political risks that they pose by Harper political staff, and not under access to information laws and by access to information officials tasked with applying the law, this problem would extend beyond the Paradis case and require further investigation.

With the prorogued Parliament hovering in the background, good to see this dose of accountability being sent the Harper government's way.