Like Mr. Dagg, I'd like to thank you for inviting me to testify. Mr. Dagg and I are both members of Anti-Corruption and Accountability Canada, which is an organization that aids whistle-blowers in exposing wrongdoing and encourages accountability and openness in government. You're going to hear from Sean Holman. Sean and I are both members of the COVID-19 Accountability Group, a coalition of experts to recommend reforms to the whistle-blowing.
Before I start, I'd like to thank Madame Maynard for having testified. I understand her problems and the stresses of her job better than I did before.
I'm going to give a few examples of access to information problems. I realize that's the focus. They started before COVID but they still go on. It's a general summary, and I've given a more specific summary. First off, let's just say that departments are not worried about ATIP legislation. When I talk to them—and Mr. Dagg may confirm this—bluntly in a conversation they simply say that a complaint to the OIC just gives them more time. In fact, in at least a couple of cases, I have been told that my request is behind all the complaints to the OIC, so I'm going to have to just wait. In other words, I'll have to complain to the OIC if I want to get my situation resolved.
ATIP officers know they can delay ATIPs. Why? Because they can simply keep asking you questions and demanding clarifications and saying they don't understand the question. As a specific example, I had a question that said, “Tell me why you did not take any action for six years.” I used the two dates. They came back to me and said they didn't understand the question. Finally I put a complaint in to the OIC because they didn't understand a simple question.
Departments can do whatever they want. They end up making exceptions under the law, which have no pertinence, as the commissioner would testify. Once something goes to OIC, they suddenly say it doesn't apply, so they can release the data.
Legally I understand that they are required to help the person who's the applicant, but their interest is in the department. They don't want to help the applicant.
As Mr. McCauley mentioned, extension beyond the 30-day statutory limit is the norm. In fact, 90 days is the norm. That's 120 days or a four-month delay. That is the norm for the request.
I'm going to finish by stating that I've given you examples of two very specific access requests. One is on the concealment of the asbestos problem at Kent Institution in B.C. We know the documents are there, but they have been denying the documents.
The other one is the Department of Justice concealing records they've had in their possession for 12 years. How much time do I still have?