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BC Supreme Court rules in favor of transparency regarding the public’s right to access information


BCCLA Reacts: BC Supreme Court rules in favor of transparency regarding the public’s right to access information under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act 

Vancouver, BC (Unceded Coast Salish Territories) – The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) welcomes the Supreme Court of British Columbia’s decision in British Columbia (Minister of Public Safety) v. British Columbia (Information and Privacy Commissioner), 2024 BCSC 345, released on February 29, 2024. The Court rejected the Ministry’s ongoing efforts to hide information about the costs of implementing the controversial Community Safety Act (“CSA”). The Court confirmed that this was a misuse of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and reiterated that transparency and accountability on the part of public bodies is crucial to the proper functioning of democracy.

This decision arises in the context of an already lengthy delay in receiving access to information. On October 3, 2019, the BCCLA made an access to information request under FIPPA for all records relating to the anticipated cost of implementing the CSA. Once implemented, occupants of a property, including homeowners, could be forced to vacate if a court finds that certain activities, which adversely affect the neighbourhood, have been occurring there. The BCCLA has criticized this legislation because it would unjustly put people’s housing security at risk and disproportionately impact vulnerable, and often heavily policed communities.

The Ministry produced 80 pages of heavily redacted records, claiming that much of the withheld information was protected by solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidence. Unsatisfied by this response, the BCCLA sought a review under FIPPA of the withheld information by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (“OIPC”) and an inquiry was started in 2022. On June 1, 2023, the Adjudicator released her decision ordering the Ministry to disclose additional information. The Ministry then filed for judicial review of that decision.

In reviewing the decision, the Court confirmed that the Adjudicator was correct to find that the Ministry should have disclosed the requested information. Justice Gomery also remarked on the significant delays in this case, noting that this undermines the purpose of FIPPA, stating that at a certain point “access delayed is access denied.”

The BCCLA agrees with the Court and is hopeful that the public’s right to access information will be met with the necessary care by public bodies moving forward.

The BCCLA is grateful to Chya Mogerman of CFM Lawyers LLP for her prudent representation.

Read the BCCLA's Submission 

Read the Decision


Article Source: ALAMEENPOST