One possible punishment for public bodies that violate Canadians' right to know. (Photograph by

One possible punishment for public bodies that violate Canadians’ right to know. (Photograph by

NAME THAT SHAME Like Canadian reporters, students journalists in the United States have seen their freedom of information requests frustrated.

But, six months ago, a legal aid group for those students decided to something clever about that frustration.

The Student Press Law Centre launched a Tumblr blog called FOIA Shaming, inviting campus reporters to share stories about university administrators who have violated the public’s right to know.

Only five such stories have posted on the blog so far. Nevertheless, I wonder whether a similar initiative to shame Canadian public bodies that charge excessive fees for freedom of information requests or are laggards in responding to them might be worthwhile?

CANADIANS CAMERA SHY In the United States, television cameras are allowed in state courts but not in the Supreme Court. By comparison, in Canada, cameras have been rare in trial courts but our highest court is televised. However, public attitudes towards expanding such coverage are very different in the two countries.

Last week, the Washington, DC-based Coalition for Court Transparency released poll in which 74 percent of 1,000 respondents said they would support having the Supreme Court’s proceeding broadcast “live to the American people.”

By comparison, when Angus Reid Public Opinion asked 1,017 Canadians in 2010 for their opinion on whether “cameras and recording devices” should be allowed inside our courts, just 49 percent said they would support such a decision.

A MADE IN CANADA SOLUTION? Is The Atlantic’s David Frum suggesting the United States should be more like Canada if wants to cure its political ills?

In a column published last month, Frum — the son of former CBC journalist Barbara Frum and brother of Canadian Conservative Senator Linda Frum — argued, “When government seems to fail, Americans habitually resort to the same solutions: more process, more transparency, more appeals to courts.”

But, according to Frum, “Each dose of this medicine leaves government more sluggish,” weakening political authority and yielding “more lobbying, more expense, more delay, and more indecision.”

Of course, as readers of this column know, Canadians don’t seem as prone to the same kinds of reformist tendencies.

As a result, our system of government — with its secret cabinet meetings, rigid party discipline and antiquated freedom of informations laws — remains comparatively efficient if somewhat undemocratic.

Frum did not respond to a tweet asking whether his column was inspired by that system.

Have a news tip about about the state of democracy, openness and accountability in Canada? You can email me at this address.

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