TORONTO, 16 Oct. 2015 /CNW/ - One month ago, a coalition of 22 NGOs from across Canada signed a Joint Letter calling on the leaders of Canada's political parties to make concrete commitments to reform Canada's outdated Access to Information Act. Over 450 Canadians have stood with us in calling for Access to Information Reform, by writing to all of the federal party leaders. Today, we welcome the fact that the NDP and Liberal parties have included commitments in their platforms to improve the Act, while the Conservative party has not done so. Canada's Access to Information Act has not been substantially improved since it was passed over 30 years ago. The RTI Rating, an internationally recognised methodology developed by the Centre for Law and Democracy, currently ranks Canada 59th in the world on access to information, down from 51st place a few years ago as other countries leapfrog ahead of us.
"The public right to know has been crippled through the neglect of our access to information system," said Tom Henheffer, Executive Director of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. "Reform is crucial. It is heartening to see that some parties have endorsed changes, but troubling that others refuse to move on this issue. Regardless of this election's outcome, CJFE will carry on in the fight to restore a robust right to know for all Canadians."
The Joint Letter called on parties to commit to a comprehensive review of the Access to Information Act and to support four specific reforms: giving Canada's Information Commissioner order-making power; expanding the scope of the Act to cover all public bodies; limiting the regime of exceptions; and creating a legal duty to document decision-making processes. While no party commits fully to all four, the NDP platform makes promises in all four areas while the Liberals have committed to fulfil two, and have also promised to institute regular reviews of the Act. Both the NDP and Liberals have also committed to eliminating all access fees beyond the initial $5 requesting fee.
The deficit of trust between Canada's voters and its elected officials has never been higher. Transparency is key to narrowing that deficit. It is encouraging that the right to information has become an issue in the campaign and that Liberal and NDP parties have pledged to take action to repair Canada's broken access law.
To read the Joint Letter, including details about the weaknesses in Canada's current access to information framework, go to: http://cjfe.org/ati-reform-2015-statement
SOURCE Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
For further information: Tom Henheffer, Executive Director, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), firstname.lastname@example.org, 647-992-4630