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Freedom for Children's Aid Information
July 11, 2014 permalink
Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian wants to add children's aid societies to the agencies covered by freedom of information legislation. In her annual report for 2013 released on June 17 there is just one paragraph on children's aid on page 12:
Children’s Aid Societies
In my 2004, 2009, and 2012 Annual Reports I recommended that Children’s Aid Societies, which provide services for some of our most vulnerable citizens – children and youth in government care, be brought under FIPPA. I am disheartened by the complete lack of action to ensure transparency and accountability by these organizations that received significant public funding. As part of the modernization of the Acts, I call on the government to finally address this glaring omission and ensure that Children’s Aid Societies are added to the list of institutions covered.
A news report is enclosed, here is a local copy of her report Freedon & Liberty (pdf).
Cavoukian says access to information legislation must be modernized
Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner says it is “imperative” that the government undertake a comprehensive review of the legislation surrounding access to information in order to “modernize it” and bring it it line with the realities of the 21st century.
In her annual report released on Tuesday morning at Queen’s Park, Dr. Ann Cavoukian says that improvements in technology and data collection have made both the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) outdated and in need of an update.
“When the Acts were originally being debated, legislators could not have envisioned the vast opportunities and challenges that have arisen through the explosive growth of the internet, the web, and now, the world of big data,” Cavoukian writes. “As a result, they no longer reflect the realities of access to information and the protection of privacy by public institutions in the information age.”
The FIPPA and MFIPPA both outline the process for obtaining government records and dictate what types of documents the public has right to access and what information can be withheld.
In her report, Cavoukian says the government must revise the acts to include stronger enforcement powers and penalties for non-compliance, stronger reporting requirements as well as new systems and incentives for the proactive disclosure of information.
“Let’s push the data out and not wait for people to go hunting for it through Freedom of Information requests,” Cavoukian told reporters at Queen’s Park.
More consequences for poor record keeping
Over the last year there have been several organizations that have been taken to task by various watchdogs for poor record keeping.
Most recently, City of Toronto Auditor-General Jeffrey Griffiths released a scathing report accusing the board of the Sony Centre of awarding renovation contracts without competition and keeping insufficient records of those contracts.
In her report, Cavoukian said the expectations for record keeping “must be raised” if the government is to remain transparent and accountable.
“My office and our freedom of information legislation can only serve the public effectively if appropriate records are kept and key decisions are fully documented,” Cavoukian writes. “The challenge we face is that there are currently no consequences for poor records management practices or the wilful destruction of records, and I feel that this must be changed.”
Cavoukian says in order to improve record keeping government employees should be legislated to document business-related activates and key decisions, and every institution subject to FIPPA or MFIPPA must put in place “reasonable measures” to retain records that are subject to or may be subject to an access to information request.
Cavoukian also says that the province must make it an offence under FIPPA and MFIPPA to destroy or alter any records that are subject to or may be subject to an access to information request.
Other highlights of the report:
- A record 55,760 Freedom of Information requests were filed in 2013, up six per cent from the year before.
- Almost 55 per cent (29,937) were filed by members of the public and not journalists.
- The Toronto Police Service received more requests than any other municipal institution with 5,246.
- The Ministry of the Environment received more requests than any other provincial institution with 7,434.
- The City of Toronto received 2,790 requests while the City of Brampton was second with 1,432.
- Provincial ministries, agencies and institutions had a 86.5 per cent 30-day compliance rate with requests while municipal governments had a 77.2 per cent 30-day compliance rate.
Thanks to Chris Carter for finding this item.