Canada’s information and privacy commissioners have become advocates for open government, issuing a joint resolution to support open government ideals and a call for all levels of government across the country to follow their lead.
“Governments at all levels in Canada should embrace open government principles to enhance transparency and accountability,” states the commissioners in a call released at the annual meeting of Canada’s Access to Information and Privacy Commissioners in Whitehorse, Yukon on Wednesday.
The Open Government Resolution, issued by all federal, provincial and territorial commissioners in Canada, outlines basic tenets of a sound open government strategy and lists five points of resolve.
The commissioners “are advocates for open government and promote the paradigm shift from reactive to proactive disclosure, and ultimately to open government,” states the document.
The resolution is the result of the work of all the commissioners across Canada, said Suzanne Legault, information commissioner of Canada. And while commissioners themselves don’t have the power to implement in government, they do have the power to persuade and influence government in these types of matters, she said.
“The resolution is important because we think that governments all across Canada should really take on open government and instill a culture shift in terms of how they deal with people’s information and how they disclose this information on a pro-active basis,” said Legault.
The Information Commissioner’s office is adapting to open government standards with its own information holdings, she said. The initiative, which started this year, aims to proactively disclose the information that stakeholders are most interested in, she said.
And one type of information that people are very interested in is performance statistics, said Legault. “We used to publish them only once a year. We now publish them every month and they are now going to be in a format that is going to be reusable,” she said.
One of the best ways to preserve freedom in a democratic society is to ensure there is openness and transparency in the activities of government, said Ann Cavoukian, information and privacy commissioner of Ontario.
The “twist” to the commissioners’ call, she said, is the paradigm shift. “We are calling for proactive disclosure on the part of the government in terms of entire classes of information,” she said.
Freedom of Information (FOI) laws currently exist in Ontario and other jurisdictions, she said, but they are reactive in nature. “They are predicated on a citizen applying for information, making what’s called an FOI request,” she said.