Open Letter Calls on Prime Minister to Fulfill Commitments to Transparency

In an open letter today, 13 major organizations from across Canada call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to fulfill the commitments to transparency that he has been declaring repeatedly since 2014.

The letter points out that “the COVID-19 pandemic has repeatedly exposed the fracture lines of your government, not least of which has been an accelerating loss of transparency.” 

The letter urges that “any effort to ‘build back better’ must begin now with a transparency repair program that will restore to Canadians their fundamental right to know.”

Specifically, the Prime Minister is called upon to:

  • End the bureaucratic stall over access-to-information reform by initiating substantive engagement with Indigenous Nations and their representative organizations, and accepting public input now and releasing a report this fall;
  • Make ministers’ offices subject to requests under the Access to Information Act, as you promised in 2015, and remove blanket protection for cabinet documents;
  • Reverse the growing number of public institutions exempt from transparency laws by bringing them back to public accountability; 
  • Greatly expand the list of documents that must be routinely made public, with legislation that includes sanctions for failure to do so, including health and safety records that provide Canadians the information they need to protect themselves;
  • Impose a duty to document in order to thwart secretive oral government;
  • End the culture of delay in access-to-information by imposing penalties on institutions that fail to meet legislated deadlines, and by providing adequate resources to serve requestors;
  • Ensure that digitized, searchable records such as databases are made available in their original formats to Canadians who request them under the Access to Information Act, rather than converted to analogue, non-searchable formats prior to release

The letter points out that the Federal government has publicly declined to fix Canada’s whistleblower law. Further it notes that all basic information about Canada’s response to COVID-19, including vaccine contracts, remains buried and inaccessible. It adds that Indigenous Nations face numerous barriers in obtaining the very data they require to substantiate historical grievances, defend their title and rights, and to protect their members.

Signatories to the letter included BC Civil Liberties Association, BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, Centre for Access to Information and Justice, Centre for Free Expression, Centre for Law and Democracy, Environmental Defence, Èquiterre, Greenpeace Canada, News Media Canada, National Claims Research Directors, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, and World Press Freedom Canada.

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