Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Failure to produce annual FOI reports shows disrespect for law: advocate

The British Columbia government argues it has been complying with the spirit of the freedom of information act, but an FOI advocate says the failure to file legally required annual reports for 16 years shows disrespect for the law.

"We have been proactively posting these statistics on our web site and in ministry annual reports for many years, substantively fulfilling the spirit of section 68 in the Act," a spokesperson for Margaret MacDiarmid's labour, citizens' services and open government ministry said in an email.

Yesterday The Tyee reported that the last time the government complied with section 68 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which requires the minister to submit an annual report to the legislature, was 16 years ago.

That 1995 report ran to 50 pages and included various statistics, a budget for the FOI branch and an assessment of how well the law was working.

The ministry spokesperson said the government will produce an annual report on the administration of the act for 2011-2012, and meanwhile publishes statistics about FOI requests quarterly on the open government website.

"This is a legal requirement," said Vincent Gogolek, executive director of the advocacy group Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. "You don't get to choose which parts you comply with, even if you are the government."

Failing to file annual reports for so many years sends a message to the public that the government sees itself as above the law and to public servants that the FOI act can be ignored, he said. "It creates an atmosphere of disrespect for the law generally and this act in particular, and that's not good."

Any of the province's 85 MLAs could raise the government's failure to comply with the law as a point of personal privilege in the legislature, Gogolek said. "Somebody could do that next week."

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

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus