DispatchPress Freedom News

Have a question? Ask ATI . . . and then wait

By Dean Beeby, WPFC committee member

For years, government media-relations staff have resorted to a dodge that allows them to evade awkward questions from journalists.

“For that information, you’ll have to make a request under access to information,” they routinely say.

Never mind that the federal act explicitly says the ATI system is “not intended to limit in any way access to the type of government information that is normally available to the general public.”

Far too many requests from journalists, researchers and ordinary Canadians are now routed through the dysfunctional ATI system.

The practice has significantly burdened the system, increasing backlogs and costs. Lengthy delays in responses are now pervasive, further serving the interests of elected administrations.

Now there’s a new twist on this long-standing abuse of access to information.

Caroline Maynard, the federal information commissioner, reported this week on how would-be immigrants to Canada are getting the same run-around as reporters have for years.

Desperately seeking information on their files, their requests are sent to the cumbersome access to information system.

Two departments have direct control of the applications that potential immigrants file when they want to come to Canada: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Lots of these hopeful and anxious people understandably want updates on where their applications stand. They often hire consultants and lawyers to do the work.

Immigration-related access requests soon started to overwhelm the system, in the two departments as well as in the complaints area of the Office of the Information Commissioner.

“[T]he status quo is simply untenable,” Maynard said in releasing her latest report.

Now if only the commissioner could give a stern lecture to those tight-lipped flaks.

(A version of this article appeared on Dean Beeby’s newsletter, available here: https://deanbeeby.substack.com/)