FOI in British Columbia: Conservation groups face Ministry roadblocks

The British Columbia Ministry of Environment has been systemically delaying and overcharging environmental groups for Freedom of Information requests, according to a report released by the Freedom of Information Commissioner's office.

The Ministry is now implementing changes in dealing with FOI requests, including abandoning the use of "sensitivity ratings."

The report follows an investigation of a complaint by the University of Victoria Environmental Law Clinic filed on behalf of eight environmental groups in 2006. Environmental groups claimed there was a "systemic pattern of discrimination" by the ministry against conservationists seeking access to public information.

The investigation, the third in five years, found "significant problems" with the Ministry's processing of requests from environmentalists, including a requirement to wait 74 business days to process requests, as opposed to the usual 45 days, according to B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis. Environmental groups paid fees twice as often as others.

Conservation groups face ministry roadblocks, report says (, 23 January 2008)