“Modern government has become perhaps the most important single institutional repository of information about political, economic, social, and environmental problems. A statutory right to acquire access to records generated at public expense is vital if citizens are to participate more effectively in decisions concerning the environmental management of public resources.” — Murray Rankin, Q.C. A Citizen's Guide to Freedom of Information
FREEDOM of INFORMATION
Free the documents. BC has a Freedom of Information Act, but unless you're a specialist, it can be tough (and expensive) to pry what you want out of the hands of the bureaucrats. But fear not. Galloping to rescue are the students from UVic's Environmental Law Centre, who have written a Citizen's Guide to Freedom of Information, designed to make it much easier, and talk you through the process, step by step.
The guide is set up for environment issues though is useful as a guide for any request!
It is free to environmental groups. Just send a self-addressed 10" x 6" envelope with $2 postage to Environmental Law Centre, PO Box 2400, Stn CSC, Victoria V8W 3H7.
Anyone can download a copy from http://www.elc.uvic.ca
From the press release announcing the guide ...
A Citizen's Guide to Freedom of Information is designed to assist citizens dealing with FOI issues. It is important that environmental groups understand the FOI process and are able to conduct an FOI request quickly and efficiently and know where to go to get help when they are stymied.
It discusses things like:
Important provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
How to create an FOI application (step by step, with references to the relevant portions of the Act); how to phrase your request, what information to gather before you make a request, etc.
What information you CAN ask for.
What information you CANNOT ask for.
What information is easier to get? What information is more difficult to get?
What should be included in an application to ensure it is processed quickly and efficiently?
What tips do FOI experts suggest, to facilitate a citizen's chance of getting what they want?
How to get information outside the FOI process: visiting the Ministry, making informal phone calls beforehand.
Examples of successful FOI requests (giving people tangible examples of what information can be obtained.
How to ask for a fee waiver (discussing the exceptions provided in the Act for people acting in the public interest, and the criteria used to decide whether fees will be waived).
The mediation and review process: what to do when your FOI request or fee waiver request is denied.