Today is International Right to Know Day, a date when groups around the world celebrate the importance of freedom of information to both democracy and good governance.
Canada is ranked 49th out of 111 countries on the RTI Rating, a global methodology for assessing the strength of a country’s legal framework for the right to information (RTI).
“The Access to Information Act (ATIA), now nearly 35 years old, is in desperate need of major reforms to reduce delays and provide for an effective right to access information held by public authorities,” Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy, wrote in an open letter to cabinet minister Scott Brison, published today.
The proposed reform, Bill C-58, would only lift Canada three positions to 46th globally, according to an analysis by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD).
Parliament’s unwillingness to act puts at risk citizens’ fundamental right to hold their government accountable.
The undersigned Canadian media organizations, press freedom groups, government transparency, and civil rights groups believe that the time is now ripe to launch a new, independent platform dedicated to helping journalists, researchers, and every other Canadian help open up government using Access to Information laws throughout the country.
Built on the open source MuckRock platform, MuckRock Canada will make it easier for Canadians to exercise their rights under the Access to Information Act, while also building a rich, easily searchable database of previously released information. It will also help independent watchdogs keep track of how quickly agencies release information, and how often they withhold it.
Like the US site, MuckRock Canada will serve as a watchdog, and document any shortfalls in the government’s ATI’s obligations to the people. MuckRock Canada will also engage in original reporting to help Canadians better understand government operations and ensure an informed democracy.
Media organizations will have the option to deploy the open source MuckRock code in house.
The foundation of a representative democracy is a well-informed people. In a digital age, MuckRock Canada will give Canadians the tools they need to exercise their rights under the Access to Information Act.
J.M. Porup, Editor, MuckRock Canada
Nick Taylor-Vaisey, President, Canadian Association of Journalists
Toby Mendel, Executive Director, Centre for Law and Democracy
Duncan Pike, Canadian Journalists for Free of Expression
Vincent Gogolek, Executive Director, BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
Image by Makaristos via Wikimedia Commons