The Centre for Law and Democracy has assessed the compliance of ten Canadian public authorities with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Indicator 16.10.2, which is: “Adoption and implementation of constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information”. The methodology behind the assessment was developed by the Freedom of Information Advocates Network (FOIAnet) and assessments are being conducted by different FOIAnet members in a number of countries around the world. CLD has produced a report summarising the results of the assessment, Canada: Civil Society Parallel Assessment of Compliance with Sustainable Development Goal Indicator 16.10.2.
“The ten public authorities covered in this assessment did fairly well in terms of proactive disclosure and institutional measures (such as appointing information officers)”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “But performance was much worse on the part of the assessment which involved responding to requests for information.”
In terms of requests, three authorities – namely Business Development Bank of Canada, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Parole Board of Canada – did excellently. However, all of the others – namely Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Elections Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Health Canada, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Public Safety Canada and Status of Women Canada – had at least one ‘fail’ rating among the two or three requests that were made to them.
The wider goal of the exercise is to ensure that the assessment of compliance with this SDG Indicator is accurate and fair, and benefits from civil society input. The FOIAnet methodology focuses only on the second part of the Indicator, namely implementation of guarantees of access to information. We already have good information on the adoption of access to information laws through the RTI Rating (www.RTI-Rating.org) developed by the Centre for Law and Democracy and Access Info Europe.
Based on the assessment, CLD made the following recommendations in the report:
- Public authorities should aim to move from ‘partial’ to ‘full’ ratings for all categories of proactive disclosure.
- All authorities should provide training to their staff on access to information.
- For electronic requests, information should be sent as email attachments rather than via flash drives or disks sent by mail.
- All public authorities should allow for the $5 application fee to be paid electronically rather than requiring requesters to mail cheques to them.
- More needs to be done to ensure that requests are answered within the time limits.
For further information, please contact:
Centre for Law and Democracy
+1 902 431-3688