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BC government loses cabinet secrets case

A Supreme Court decision released Jan. 31 limits how the British Columbia government can define "cabinet documents" to keep secrets.

"This decision today blocks some of the more extreme things they've been trying to do," said Vincent Gogolek, the policy director for the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. "I think it's a good decision. It sets out a number of important points and clarifies things."

At issue were records journalist Stanley Tromp had requested under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act from government caucus committees from between 2002 and 2004. The records were severed under section 12 of the act, which requires the head of a public body to refuse to disclose information that would reveal the substance of deliberations of the cabinet or its committees.

The decision by Justice Brian Joyce found the records did not reveal the "substance" of the committee deliberations, and that "reasonableness" was the appropriate standard for deciding whether they or not they did.

The decision will limit how the government can apply section 12 in the future, said Gogolek. "The government continues to interpret section 12 way to broadly," he said. "This is a really useful decision for future battles."

The government may appeal the decision.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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