FOI in Canada: National audit of FOI laws reveals disturbing trend towards secrecy

A national audit of freedom-of-information laws has found a "disturbing" trend toward secrecy about even the most basic information held by public bodies in Canada. The two-month project, organized for a second year by the Canadian Newspaper Association, sent 60 journalists from 39 newspapers to hospitals, police headquarters and other public institutions and departments in pursuit of information.

The audit found that requests about such basic subjects as pesticide use, health spending and crime were refused in 31 per cent of cases. And many of the requests filed under provincial and federal freedom-of-information laws resulted in lengthy delays or large fees.

The project found that bonuses paid to hospital administrators were considered confidential in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Standard crime statistics in Laval, Que., and Pembroke, Ont., were kept from the public. And federal bureaucrats failed to provide timely responses about national pandemic preparations.

Audit of FOI laws finds strong inclination toward secrecy (cnews, Canada, 23 September 2006)