STUDY PUSHES FOR INFO RIGHT

An illustration from the Task Force on Government Information’s final report, To Know and Be Known. (Graphic by Government of Canada)

November 4, 1969 – When the Task Force on Government Information released its final report, much of the coverage focused on its proposal to establish a “central government agency of information resources and technical services.”1Canada, Task Force on Government Information, To Know and Be Know, vol. 1 (Ottawa, ON: Task Force on Government Information, 1969), 55. That agency, which the task force dubbed “Information Canada,” was variously described in the news media as a “supermouth,”2Editorial, “First-Rate Expose – But Next?” Globe and Mail, November 6, 1969. “a huge, computerized and streamlined public relations agency,”3Arthur Blakely, “Trudeau Approves Information Plan,” Gazette (Montreal), November 6, 1969. and an indication that “the year ’1984’ appears to be closer than most Canadians appreciate.”4Editorial, “New Bureaucracy is Not Needed,” Edmonton Journal, November 6, 1969.

However,  the task force was also an unlikely early advocate of freedom of information, recommending that “the right of Canadians to full, objective and timely information and the obligation of the States to provide such information” might be “comprehended within a new constitution in the context of freedom of expression.”5Canada, Task Force on Government Information, To Know and Be Know, vol. 1 (Ottawa, ON: Task Force on Government Information, 1969), 56.

In addition, according to columnist Anthony Westell, one of the most “provocative ideas” to percolate in its private sessions was the establishment of an “ombudsman to safeguard public access to facts the government might prefer to keep private. As originally discussed, the official would have been dignified with the title of Information Commissioner and given something of the same independent relationship to government as that enjoyed by the auditor-general.”6Anthony Westell, “So Much for that Watchdog,” Edmonton Journal, November 13, 1969. However, Westell wrote that the idea “was diluted somewhere in the process of discussion, decision and revision leading to the final report of the task force.”7Anthony Westell, “So Much for that Watchdog,” Edmonton Journal, November 13, 1969.

This post is part of a series of articles documenting major events in the history of freedom of information in Canada. To see the complete version of that developing timeline, click here.

References   [ + ]

1. Canada, Task Force on Government Information, To Know and Be Know, vol. 1 (Ottawa, ON: Task Force on Government Information, 1969), 55.
2. Editorial, “First-Rate Expose – But Next?” Globe and Mail, November 6, 1969.
3. Arthur Blakely, “Trudeau Approves Information Plan,” Gazette (Montreal), November 6, 1969.
4. Editorial, “New Bureaucracy is Not Needed,” Edmonton Journal, November 6, 1969.
5. Canada, Task Force on Government Information, To Know and Be Know, vol. 1 (Ottawa, ON: Task Force on Government Information, 1969), 56.
6, 7. Anthony Westell, “So Much for that Watchdog,” Edmonton Journal, November 13, 1969.

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