Law should require disclosure of risks of harm to public, environment: info commissioner

By Carl Meyer, National Observer, January 18, 2021

Canada’s freedom of information law should require government institutions to disclose details about a risk of significant harm to public health and safety or environmental protection, says the federal information watchdog.

Information commissioner Caroline Maynard made the recommendation as part of a submission to the government, which is reviewing the access to information process, including the federal Access to Information Act.

Treasury Board president Jean-Yves Duclos had asked Maynard for her input on how to improve the information disclosure regime, which is supposed to ensure the government is transparent and accountable to Canadians.

In a document detailing her “observations and recommendations” that was announced Jan. 11, Maynard pointed out that six provincial access to information laws require the disclosure of government information related to public health or environmental protection.

(...)The six provinces with freedom to information laws containing these kinds of public interest provisions are British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

(...)The laws in four of the other provinces echo similar language, while Ontario's law says the government must, “as soon as practicable,” disclose any record if it has “reasonable and probable grounds” to believe it's in the public interest to do so, and it “reveals a grave environmental, health or safety hazard to the public.”

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