Ontario Appeal Court Ruling States Government Secrecy No Longer the Norm

Without question the age of information is changing the way governments conduct themselves. Everywhere in the world where the Internet exists citizens are being empowered by information. This is an indisputable fact.

The Globe and Mail reported on Friday the Ontario Court of Appeal finally showed some intestinal fortitude – guts – and ruled in favor of an applicant seeking contentious information from a government body.

The paper quotes the Freedom Commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, saying, “this is a great day for transparency and openness.”

Unfortunately, late last year this same court ruled on the contrary and refused a simple request for information on the Filmport lease from the City of Toronto’s economic development agency, TEDCO.

The case in question before the courts, on Friday, was a complex murder trail that erupted into legal battle over the investigating officer’s deliberate non-disclosure and deliberate editing of useful information. The men had the charges stayed by the crown and walked under section 7 and 11 of the Charter. The O.P.P. did an investigation and determined that no police misconduct occurred.

Hence the lawyers wanted to see the police report and sought a freedom of information request (F.O.I.).

Now there are certain exceptions that I believe are completely reasonable for a government body to withhold under the F.O.I. The following lists lawful examples found within this judicial ruling.

[18] Some of the exemptions in sections 12 to 22 are mandatory; some are discretionary; some provide a duty on the part of the head to disclose. The exemptions are worth noting in summary, for purposes of context. They are:
a) cabinet records (s. 12);
b) advice to government by a public servant or other employee (s. 13);
c) law enforcement records (s. 14);
d) relations with other governments (s. 15);
e) defence records (s. 16);
f) commercial third party records (s. 17);
g) economic and other interests of Ontario (s. 18);
h) solicitor-client privilege (s. 19);
i) disclosure of records that can threaten the safety or health of someone (s. 20);
j) personal information about a person to a third party (s. 21);
k) disclosure of records that can put fish or wildlife species at risk (s. 21.1); and
l) information soon to be published (s. 22)

The significance of this ruling is that you have the Appeal Courts releasing information on a mob hit, police misconduct, solicitor-client privilege, law enforcement records; all contentious issues some of which could potentially be personally injurious or retributively fatal to someone.

With the Filmport lease what is it that Jeffrey Steiner and David Miller are protecting, other than greed and ego.

One thing they have not protected is the Toronto Film industry.

It is absurd to say that the TEDCO is not part of the city.

Hopefully this new ruling will set added precedence for the Freedom Commissioner to provide Ontarians with a more open and transparent society.

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