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President of the Treasury Board Tony Clement. (BLAIR GABLE/REUTERS)
President of the Treasury Board Tony Clement. (BLAIR GABLE/REUTERS)

Globe Editorial

On access to information, Canada is a developing country Add to ...

Canada's access-to-information laws are not working, in spite of the country's avowed commitment to open government.

In an Associated Press study, researchers filed access-to-information requests for government documents on terrorism and convictions in 105 countries. Canada asked for a 200-day extension, and then only gave a partial response. The U.S. stalled for 10 months before releasing two spreadsheets and one piece of paper with all names blanked out.

In new democracies and developing countries, meanwhile, access-to-information laws work as tools for transparency and citizen engagement. India replied in full and on time, while Turkey provided answers within 10 days. Mexico's law is cited as a “model;” it makes all responses public and allows anonymous requests.

Today, Canadians are made to file access to information requests to discover what a government ministry has already released.

There should be no political interference with access to information requests. Documents need to be produced in a timely fashion, and not redacted without cause. If Canadian officials are unable to do this themselves, they should send delegations to India, Mexico and Turkey, and study how right-to-know laws work there.

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