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Civil rights group condemns government cutbacks to access and privacy law

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The B.C. Civil Liberties Association calls on the provincial government to suspend changes until the Special Legislative Committee examining the law has reported to the Legislature.

The provincial government has admitted that it will make cuts to the administration of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and raise fees for access to information requests—despite the fact that an all-party Committee of the Legislature is examining these very issues, and will report back to the Legislature in the fall.

This admission came in the wake of Information and Privacy Commissioner David Flaherty’s public criticism of the moves two days ago. Mr. Flaherty said he fears that the cuts represent an attack on citizens’ information and privacy rights.

BCCLA Policy Director Murray Mollard stated today, “We share the Commissioner’s concerns. These changes are premature and undermine the work of the all-party Special Legislative Committee that is examining the provisions and operation of the Act.”

The BCCLA is a strong supporter of B.C.’s access to information and privacy law. The law protects rights that are critical to the democratic process. Citizens, the media and opposition parties must have timely access to government-controlled information in order to keep the government accountable. The Act, which also protects citizens’ privacy, has been widely cited as a model for other jurisdictions. “It appears that the government has no interest in the work of the committee or in the views that citizens, citizen groups and civil servants are expressing to the committee,” Mollard added.

The BCCLA challenges the government to cancel these changes and, instead, to submit any concerns it might have for consideration by the Special Legislative Committee and the public.