British Columbia, Canada: Withdraw amendments to Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act | Joint letter

Full joint letter (pdf) | See FIPA’s webpage for more information

Update 1 November 2021: See a Note by the Centre for Law and Democracy with in-depth assessments of proposed amendments to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA)

On 26 October 2021, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada joined a coalition of civil society organizations in the Province of British Columbia (BC), Canada, in an urgent letter to BC’s Premier and Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture expressing concern about Bill 22 amendments to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). Led by the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA), the joint letter  calls for withdrawal of Bill 22 and an open consultation process towards comprehensive legislation that reflects recommendations of past and current special legislative committees responsible for reviewing the FIPPA. See FIPA’s concerns about Bill 22.

To Premier Horgan and Minister Beare:

We, the undersigned, believe transparency matters and, because of this, we write to you to express our grave concerns about the Bill 22 amendments to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

Bill 22 would see substantive changes made to FIPPA for the first time in over a decade. Unfortunately, if passed, this Bill will undermine access to information and make public bodies less transparent. It is a step backwards for openness and accountability, and a missed opportunity to protect the privacy and improve the information rights of British Columbians.

This legislation would extend the ability of current and future governments to keep people in the dark about vital matters of public interest. Its introduction at this time short-circuits the work of the special legislative committee responsible for reviewing FIPPA, preventing meaningful public consultation. If passed, it would immediately put up more barriers for people seeking access to information.

You have made prior commitments regarding the value you place on transparency and about the need to improve government accountability, but this legislation would make it harder for everyone – concerned citizens, experienced researchers, and you – to get facts rather than spin.

We recognize this majority government can readily pass this regressive Bill quickly. If that happens, it will impact the citizens of British Columbia now, haunt us into the future, and set a dangerous precedent across Canada.

Our message is simple: Transparency matters to all of us. Stop Bill 22.

We call on the government to:

  • Withdraw this Bill
  • Recognize the role of the all-party special committee and allow it to complete its work, including an open consultation process
  • Commit, on record, to introduce comprehensive amendments to FIPPA that reflect the recommendations of past and current special committees

As interested individuals and members of organizations, we call on you to demonstrate your commitment to democratic values by taking action to improve–not reduce–the transparency of public bodies.

This call to action is supported by:

In the letter

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA)

The British Columbia General Employees’ Union (BCGEU)

The Canadian Association of Journalists

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives BC Office (CCPA-BC)

Canadian Institute for Information and Privacy Studies (CIIPS)

Centre for Access to Information and Justice (CAIJ)

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD)

Democracy Watch

Fairley Strategies

Forest Protection Allies FORPA

Independent Contractors and Businesses Association

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

Open Media

Privacy & Access Council of Canada (PACC – CCAP)

Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)

Student Press Freedom Act Campaign (SPFA Campaign)

The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC)

West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund (West Coast LEAF)

The Wilderness Committee

Jason Austin

John Brady

Lynn Copeland

Carla Graebner, Librarian for Research Data Services and Government Information, W.A.C. Bennett Library, Simon Fraser University

Sean Holman, Wayne Crookes Professor in Environmental and Climate Journalism, University of Victoria

Patrick Jardine

Victoria Lemieux, Associate Professor, Archival Science, School of Information, Co-Lead, Blockchain@UBC research cluster, Distinguished Scholar, Sauder School of Business, Faculty Associate, Institute for Computing, Information and Cognitive Systems, The University of British Columbia

Lisa P. Nathan, Associate Professor, School of Information, University of British Columbia

Marcus Ooms

Dawe Pope

Ken Rubin, Investigative researcher and transparency advocate

Dan Schubart

Chad Skelton, Chair, Department of Journalism and Communication Studies, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Stanley Tromp, FOI journalist, researcher

Maureen Webb, FOI Author

Please see FIPA’s webpage for newly added endorsers.