Thursday, December 21, 2006

This is from the Open Knowledge Foundation Weblog in the UK:

A great day for the law and for the people
December 20th, 2006

Today the Department for Constitutional Affairs’ long awaited Statute Law Database project has launched, free at point of use for anyone. It’s super. Last week, access to consolidated versions of the law of the UK wasn’t possible without paying lots of money. Now it is free.

There are some down sides - 40 acts are not covered at all, law is only guaranteed included up until the end of 2001, and the data only has history of changes back to 1991.

It is almost inconceivable that a citizen would have to pay for the ability to read the text of the laws of their country.

- Greg Pemberton (RTKNS web admin)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Happy Holidays to all. After a fantastic 4th quarter start, we're taking a bit of a break with the Blog but will be back in force to start the New Year. Thank you for your interest and we will see you in 2007!

Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. - Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, December 07, 2006

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia I have contacted the Minister of Justice asking him to lower fees for applications and appeals under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Minister Scott replied that he would take our views into consideration. The coalition holds the view that the fees, the highest in Canada, are a deterrent to using the Act and to keeping government open and accountable. The fees are $25.00 for an application; $25.00 for an appeal to the Review Officer; plus processing costs with no minimum free time.

If you agree I ask you to email the Minister and tell him so ( or or telephone his office and leave a message. This would help us enormously in convincing the Minister that the fees are too high.


Darce Fardy
Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Report on freedom of information (FOI) workshops sponsored by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in Roseau, the capital of Dominica, from November 27 to December 1

Representing the Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia it was a real honour for me to join Caribbean cabinet ministers, other politicians, government employees, university representatives, representatives of the Carter Center and a citizens’ rights group Jamaicans for Justice; and journalists at the four-day freedom of information workshop.

I participated on four panels. Other panelists included a senior specialist with the Organization of American States and the co-ordinator with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative in India.

Caribbean countries represented were Guyana, Jamaica, Anguilla, Barbados, Belize, Antigua & Barbuda, Turks and Caicos, Montserrat, Trinidad and Tobago, Cayman Islands, St. Kitts & Nevis, Grenada,, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. They are all members of the Commonwealth.

On the first day the panel discussed a favourite topic of Canadian Information Commissioners: How to overcome political and bureaucratic cultures of secrecy. I repeated what I have said many times, and it reflects the mission of our coalition: the culture will not change until citizens show they care. A sub topic for the panel was one on which I found little to say: How are parliamentarians employing innovative techniques and strategies to address the culture of secrecy and involve public officials in promoting openness. I had to concede I knew of no such parliamentary initiative in Canada, again, perhaps, because they feel no pressure citizens.

On another panel, this one discussing the role of the independent administrative bodies like Canadian Information Commissions and in the case of Nova Scotia, the review office. I stressed the importance of ensuring that these offices are completely independent of government, and are seen to be independent. “Without that,” I said, “and without public faith in the integrity of the body, the whole process will be suspect” and, I might have added, of little use. Some delegates were able to point to oversight bodies that were not truly independent.

As the conference ended delegates approved the conclusions drawn up by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the representatives of the OAS and the Carter Center and myself. They included:

• FOI laws must be based on presumption of maximum disclosure;
• Countries without FOI laws should implement them as soon as possible;
• The development of FOI laws should be done through a participatory process and ensuring the widest possible consultation with the public;
• As far as possible information should be provided free of charge;
• If governments already have helpful access to information policies and procedures they should not be abandoned when FOI legislation is implemented.
• FOI education programs should be devised for government employees and the public.
• The FOI law should ensure that the appeals process is not so cumbersome or costly as to act as a deterrent to the public.

I believe the conference was well worthwhile and I believe it will result in increased awareness of the need for FOI legislation.

During the week I was invited to meet with local journalists to discuss FOI legislation and why it is important for journalists to know it and use it.