Today, October 2, 2009, is the last day of Right to Know Week in Canada.
Right to Know Week was originally started in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2002 as a result of a meeting of Access to Information Commissioners from around the world. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the necessity of access to information in democratic societies. This is the fourth year that it has been formally recognized in Canada and it has started to pick up momentum. The Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada set up a website at righttoknow.ca to detail the many events that were taking place across the country.
I had the honour to sit on a panel at the University of Ottawa this week to discuss freedom of information from a legal perspective. There was a general consensus that something is broken in the federal system as delays in getting information stretch from months to years. Though it was organized by the OIC, the panelists pulled no punches. For example, Amir Attaran from the University of Ottawa called for the complete dismantling of the Office of the Information Commissioner, replacing the obudsman model with an American-style “go directly to court” system. Interestingly, David Stratas of Heenan Blaikie LLP and Paul Szabo, Member of Parliament and Chair of the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Standing Committee, called for the entrenchment of the Right to Information in the Charter. I was very interested to hear from Denis Kratchanov, General Counsel and Director, Information Law and Privacy Section, Justice Canada, to provide the very-seldom heard perspective from within the bureaucracy. Just a great panel and the moderator, Vincent Kazmierski, facilitator, had a tough time keeping it within the two hours allocated.
This panel was just one of a series organized by the OIC, all of which will be broadcast on CPAC. The broadcast schedule hasn’t been set yet, but I strongly recommend checking all of them out. And keep your eyes peeled around this time next year, as I expect Right to Know Week 2010 will be as interesting and thought-provoking as this year, if not more so.