I’m excited to announce I’ll be speaking at my alma mater for an event celebrating Right to Know Week. On Sept. 26, Carleton University and the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada will be holding an afternoon seminar on open and transparent government. Treasury Board President Scott Brison will be the keynote speaker. I’ll be part of a panel discussing access in journalism along with Toronto Star investigative reporter Jayme Poisson – who has been studying the access to information process – and VICE News features editor Justin Ling. There will also be panels on policy issues and open government. If you’re in Ottawa, I look forward to seeing you there.
As you may have noticed, I’ve been absent from this site for the past few weeks. Part of the reason for that absence is the approaching end of the fall semester and all marking that entails. But I’m also pleased to announce I’m working on an early history of the Access to Information Act (1965-1983).
The book will tell the story of the long fight for that law by a somewhat incongruous group of politicians, academics, lawyers and activists. And it will help explain why that fight continues to be fought — and often lost — today. I look forward to sharing that story with you.
But, in the meantime, I’ll will be stepping back from penning my weekly column about government secrecy. From time to time, I’ll still write about current attempts to frustrate the public’s right to know, as well as the results of my research. So be sure to sign-up as a email subscriber to this site to stay informed. I’ll also continue to be active on Twitter, contributing to the #cdnfoi discussion. But this book is a major undertaking that will need as much time as I can give it.
P.S. If you or anyone you know was part of the early history of the Access to Information Act, please drop me a line at this address. I would love to hear from you.
I’ll be taking a break from column writing for the next few weeks. But follow me on Twitter, where I’ll continue bringing you the latest news and views about secrecy and openness in Canada.
Update: After a longer than anticipated hiatus, I’ll be resuming regular publication of the Unknowable Country on September 7. So be sure not to miss any of my forthcoming coverage by becoming an email subscriber to this Website. Sign up by typing your email address into the box on the right.
I’ll be taking the next few weeks off to celebrate the holiday season and prepare course outlines for the coming semester. That means the Unknowable Country’s weekly look at openness and accountability in Canada will be on hiatus until the New Year. But check back then for more insights and information about your right to know. In the meantime, my best wishes to you and yours.
Does our narcissistic obsession with privacy compromise our information freedoms? That’s one of the questions I’ll be addressing Friday morning at the National Privacy and Data Governance Congress in Calgary. I’ll be sharing the stage with former Canwest News Service national columnist Catherine Ford and social media influencer Lori Ruff during a panel discussion entitled “Exposing Secrets: Privacy Ethics and the Media.”
What is freedom of information and why does it matter in Canada? I’ll speaking on that subject this coming Friday at the Vancouver Press Club’s FOI Workshop – as well as making a special announcement about how journalists can help push for more openness and accountability in government.
I’ll be joined by my friend and former Vancouver 24 hours colleague Bob Mackin, Canadian Press reporter Dene Moore and Vancouver Sun data journalist Chad Skelton. The three of them will share their tips on how journalists can generate ideas for freedom of information requests, file them and troubleshooting them.
So if you want to know more about how to better exercise your right to know – and fight back against those who violate it – make sure you come by Simon Fraser University’s downtown campus.
I look forward to seeing you there.
When journalists complain about Canada’s freedom of information system, we often fault its costs, the currency of the responses we receive, as well as their completeness.
After all, it’s not uncommon to be asked to pay hundreds of dollars to process a request, wait months for a response and receive pages and pages of blanked out records. But these are mere symptoms of the disease plaguing Canada’s freedom of information system — a disease whose causes can be traced to the political and social culture of this country.
I’ll be speaking more about that issue tomorrow afternoon with former Vancouver Sun managing editor Kirk LaPointe at the Canadian Association of Journalists annual convention, which gets underway today in Vancouver. You can tune in here on Saturday at 3:15 to follow the live blog of that workshop.
In addition, I’ll be hosting J-Fest on Friday evening at 7:00. It’s a celebration of the some of the best reporting in British Columbia, with Times Colonist’s Lindsay Kines, former Province editorial cartoonist Dan Murphy and Fractured Land filmmaker Damien Gillis giving the stories behind the stories they covered or opined on. Tickets to the event, which takes place at the Holiday Inn Vancouver Downtown, are $5 at the door.
What does living in an unknowable country mean for those trying to increase access to government data and information? I tried to answer that question on Friday, during a speech at the Open Data Summit in Vancouver.
I’ll be posting the text of that speech online early next week. But I’ll also be sharing some of those thoughts with the Canadian Bar Association Alberta Branch. I’m scheduled to talk with the branch’s privacy and access law section (south) in Calgary this coming Monday.
Meanwhile, my weekly summary of news about the people, the press and the powerful in Canada will resume next week.
Today, I’m extremely pleased to announce DVDs for Whipped: the secret world of party discipline have been finally been printed. You can check out the cover — created by Victoria-based graphic designer Victor Crapnell — above. The first copies have been ordered by Alberta’s Legislature Library, Douglas College and Fair Vote Canada’s Waterloo region chapter.