From the memory hole, again:
Government subverting right of public access under Freedom of Information Act
ST. JOHN'S, April 5, 2000 — Opposition Justice critic Tom Rideout says the government has embarked on a deliberate policy to subvert the public's right of access, under the Freedom of Information Act, to information in the records of government departments and agencies.
The purpose clause of the Freedom of Information Act states: "The purpose of this Act is to provide a right of access by the public to information in records of departments and to subject that right only to specific and limited exceptions necessary for the operation of departments and for the protection of personal privacy."
In the legislature Wednesday, Rideout said, "That right is being restricted and denied, illegally, at every turn. And, worst of all, the Minister of Justice has been put in charge of government's censorship strategy. Why has the Minister of Justice, the chief law enforcement officer in the land, accepted this unbecoming role? Why has he allowed the Ministry of Justice to become the Ministry of Government Censorship?"
"The Act says, very specifically, that only the minister of a department that receives a request for information can decide to grant or deny the request. It doesn't happen that way anymore. Every minister and deputy minister have been ordered by the Premier to send all requests for information to the Justice Minister's office, and to comply with that minister's decision. That is a violation of the Act. Why is the Minister of Justice, the person in this province who has a sacred obligation to uphold the law, a willing participant in this scheme to circumvent the law and deny citizens their legal rights under the Freedom of Information Act?" he asked.
Rideout said, "Public servants who know what is going on, laugh at the notion that the Justice Minister's instructions are based solely on legal opinion. Lawyers in his department give professional legal opinions, when asked. But the orders the minister gives departments are not based solely on legal opinion, but are politically motivated to deny information, in contravention of the Act, that would embarrass government or expose government misdeeds."
"The Minister of Government Services and Lands knows the Justice Minister is the Censorship Minister. He has, in fact, been censored by the Justice Minister. He told a journalist – after her request for information about buried fuel tanks was denied – that he wanted to release the information, but the Justice Minister wouldn't let him. What gives the Justice Minister the legal right to deny this request? Certainly not the Freedom of Information Act!" Rideout said.
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For more information:
Tom Rideout, MHA Lewisporte