Government completes major improvements to the Access to Information Act
June 21, 2019 – Ottawa, Ontario – Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Openness, transparency and accountability are guiding principles of the Government of Canada. Government information ultimately belongs to all Canadians.
The Honourable Joyce Murray, President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and the Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of Democratic Institutions today announced that Bill C-58, an Act to amend the Access to Information Act and to make consequential changes to other acts received royal assent.
Passage of Bill C-58 brings the most significant amendments to the Access to Information Act since it was introduced in 1983. Of note, the Act now provides the Information Commissioner with the power to make binding orders to government institutions, transforming the role from an ombudsperson to a powerful authority with the ability to order government to release records.
The Act also puts into practice the principle of “open by default” in the digital age by making key information available proactively, without the need to make a request. This information includes mandate letters from the Prime Minister to ministers, briefing packages for new ministers and deputy heads, briefing note titles, Question Period notes, and briefing materials prepared for Parliamentary Committee appearances. Further proactive publication requirements that will come into force in one year will also apply to senators, members of Parliament, and the administrative bodies that support Parliament and the courts, enhancing accountability and transparency, while protecting parliamentary privilege and the independence of the judiciary.
These changes represent only the first step to renew Canada’s access to information regime. As part of these reforms, a full review of the Access to Information Act must take place every 5 years, with the first review to begin within one year of royal assent. To that end, the government will continue to work with the Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner, with Parliament, Indigenous groups, and other stakeholders to further strengthen Canadians' access to information.
“Openness and transparency have been guiding principles for our government. That’s why I’m proud that these improvements to the access to information system put more information in the hands of Canadians. These improvements mark the first time a government has modernized Canada’s access to information system in more than 30 years. Next year, we will begin the first 5-year review of the act to ensure the legislation is continually modernized.”
The Honourable Joyce Murray, President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government
“Our government made a commitment when we took office to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in the use of public funds. With the passage of C-58, Parliament has approved important measures aimed at promoting greater transparency of the court system, while balancing the constitutional imperative to protect judicial independence.”
The Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“The changes announced today enhance the transparency and accountability of Canadian democratic institutions by ensuring that Canadians can easily view the most often requested documents without having to file an access to information request. These measures will help Canadians access trustworthy, verifiable information and reaffirms our commitment to an open, transparent and accountable government.”
The Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of Democratic Institutions
The government’s update to the access to information system began with interim measures introduced in 2016 that eliminated fees other than the $5 filing fee and enshrined the principle of “open by default.”
Since 2015, the number of pages released under the ATIA has increased by more than 260%, from 6,623,001 pages in 2015-16 to 24,143,497 pages in 2017-18.
The new requirements for proactive publication of a broad range of information will extend across more than 260 government institutions.
The new legislation requires a full review of the Access to Information Act to begin within one year of royal assent.
Office of the President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
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