Province short on freedom of information
Reprinted with permission from CBC
Thursday, April 25, 2002
Provincial Ombudsman Barry Tuckett says complaints almost doubled
between 1999 and 2000.
Winnipeg - Manitobans are filing a record number of
complaints about troubles they're facing while trying to access public
information, according to the provincial ombudsman's annual access and privacy
"What we saw was unnecessary delays in responding to
access requests. It was as a result of a change in the way applications for
access were coordinated," he says.
"Also, we found that the access requests – some of them
– were looked at in sort of a way to try to justify denial."
Attitude may undermine public confidence
Tuckett says government agencies and departments may need a
refresher course on freedom of information legislation.
He says there are legitimate reasons for government to
withhold certain information, but attempting to avoid public criticism or
embarrassment isn't one of them.
"Departments have a duty to assist applicants in getting
a response that is without delay, openly,accurately and completely – that's
the duty that they have," he says.
"It's fine when the information is very positive towards
government, but when it isn't quite so positive, if there's a lot of steps taken
to try to resist access, what that does is it undermines public
Sixty-six per cent of the complaints in the report were about
provincial government departments and agencies. The rest were about public
organizations, health professionals, and health care facilities.
Ombudsman: Access & Privacy Division