Information access in peril, CAJ says

OTTAWA, April 14 /CNW/ - Canadians are being blocked from knowledge of their governments' activities due to information access laws that are more of a barrier than an aid, the CAJ says.

So the CAJ - which has long fought against this democratic deficit - welcomes Tuesday's report by interim federal Access to Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault, who warned Canada's access to information laws are getting close to useless due, as a Globe and Mail report put it, to chronic delays and foot dragging.

"This right is at risk of being totally obliterated because delays threaten to render the entire access regime irrelevant in our current information economy," wrote Ms. Legault.

In October, 2008, a report co-sponsored by the CAJ found that, on 12 key points, Canada's access to information act fails to meet the international standards of freedom-of-information (FOI) law endorsed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

That report, "Fallen Behind: Canada's Access to Information Act in the World Context," found that Canada's legislation lags behind those of countries such as India, Mexico and Pakistan.

"The Harper Conservatives have consistently worked against the interests of the public's access to information for years now," said CAJ president Mary Agnes Welch.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office won the CAJ's 2008 Code of Silence Award for being the most secretive government department in Canada. The PMO won for its pivotal role in creating a pervasive apparatus that obfuscates and blocks access to public-owned, government-held information. The PMO was a close runner-up for last year's Code of Silence Award.

SOURCE Canadian Association of Journalists

For further information: For further information: Mary Agnes Welch, CAJ president, (204) 470-8862 or Paul Schneidereit, CAJ past-president, (902) 426-2811, ext. 1124

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