Canada court upholds challenge to secrecy provisions in freedom of information law

[JURIST] An Ontario Court of Appeal [official website] panel ruled [decision] Friday that officials making determinations under the Canadian province's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act [text] had to weigh the public interest in the release of information sought and that simply invoking statutory exemptions on release based on law enforcement or solicitor-client privilege unjustifiably limited the right to free expression guaranteed by s. 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. Justice Harry LaForme wrote for the majority: "the government’s failure to let the [Information and Privacy] Commissioner even determine whether it is in the public interest to disclose the records arguably puts the administration of justice into disrepute. The lack of an independent means of determining whether the records should be disclosed...places us back to an era where government secrecy was the norm and disclosure was at the whim of the Minister."

The suit was filed by the Criminal Lawyers' Association [official website] in response to a refusal by the Ontario Ministry of Public Safety and Security to turn over government documents in a 1983 murder case. The Toronto Globe and Mail has more.

 

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