Bill Blair Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair answers a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Bill Blair Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair answers a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Info commissioner slams RCMP, Liberals on rampant access-to-information failures

Liberals promised during 2015 federal election to strengthen Canada’s access-to-information regime

The federal information commissioner has come out swinging against Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and the RCMP for what she says is a complete disregard for transparency and accountability.

The criticisms are in a new report released Tuesday in which Caroline Maynard takes the Mounties to task for failing to address long-standing failings in the handling of access-to-information requests.

That includes a growing backlog of thousands of unanswered requests for information from Canadians, as well problems with processing and responding to such requests properly.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Maynard said she met with RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki to discuss the issue in 2018, shortly after the two of them took up their respective jobs.

“I was hopeful that resources were going to be added and the systemic issues would be looked at,” Maynard said. “But it turns out that with time, we noticed there was no improvement. Actually, everything was getting worse.”

While Maynard blames the Mounties’ leaders for not addressing the problems, she also criticizes Blair and the federal Liberal government for seemingly not taking the issue seriously.

That includes a failure to respond as she was carrying on her investigation, which started in January 2019, and developing a credible plan to address the 15 recommendations she makes.

“The RCMP commissioner and the minister both appear to accept the status quo and are only prepared to commit to minimal improvements without a clear plan of action or timelines,” Maynard wrote in the introduction to her report.

“Canadians rightfully expect that the police force for Canada, in charge of enforcing Canadian law, will itself comply with it. The gravity of the situation at the RCMP calls for bold and comprehensive action to turn the tide.”

Blair rejected those allegations of indifference, indicating during a news conference that he did not know Maynard was releasing a report on the RCMP until this past weekend.

He went on to say the commissioner “seemed quite happy and satisfied” with his plan for fixing the problems she had identified after the two talked on Tuesday morning.

That plan consists of ordering the RCMP to work with the Treasury Board Secretariat, which oversees Ottawa’s access-to-information regime, to identify the problems and come up with a strategy within three months for addressing them.

“I want to assure you that I care about access to information,” Blair said. “I think it’s an important obligation — both a legal obligation, but an obligation of government generally, to provide information where we are able in a timely way.”

Tuesday’s report is only the latest from the commissioner to scold federal departments for failing to uphold the Canadian public’s right to government information.

“With the pandemic, it’s even more important for people to know that they can trust governments and get the information about how decisions are being made, how my money is being spent,” Maynard told The Canadian Press.

“When I hear government leaders saying that they want Canadians to trust them, I always think to myself: It starts with information. Provide them with information, show them how you make those decisions.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared to agree with that assessment during one of his regular COVID-19 updates on Tuesday as he thanked Maynard for raising her concerns to the government.

“Canadians need to have confidence in their institutions,” he said. “We need particularly to have confidence in institutions like police forces like the RCMP. One of the best ways to do that is to demonstrate transparency and accountability.”

The Liberals first promised during the 2015 federal election to strengthen Canada’s access-to-information regime, but Maynard has said complaints about the system are increasing.

Advocacy groups such as OpenMedia and the Canadian Association of Journalists have also raised concerns about the state of the federal system, particularly as long-standing problems have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s so many problems across other departments, so this is really kind of the tip of the iceberg,” said CAJ president Brent Jolly.

“The public deserves better. And without modernization, I fear for the future of information and the free flow of information and the Canadian public’s right to know, frankly.”

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

LiberalsprivacyRCMP

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sgt. Darryl Peppler said Mounties are continuing their investigation after Tuesday’s raid. File photo
Grand Forks RCMP arrest suspected drug traffickers at city motel

Police say they netted “a sizable amount” of money and suspected drugs following Tuesday’s arrests.

RCMP pictured at a motor vehicle incident during snowy conditions. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Fruitvale woman charged with impaired driving in 2019 crash that killed 2 teens

A 15-year-old boy and 18-year-old woman, both from Fruitvale, died in the crash that sent the vehicle into the river

Masks are now officially mandatory in all City of Campbell River facilities. (Black Press File Photo)
Interior Health reports 49 new COVID-19 cases overnight

302 cases remain active; two in hospital

L-R: Kootenay Co-op general manager Ari Derfel, grocery manager Erin Morrison, and security guard Akshay Sharma. The Kootenay Co-op has hired a security company to protect staff from abusive customers who don’t wish to wear masks. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Mask acceptance varies between different business outlets in Nelson

A small percentage of shoppers have tried flouting the rule, and Kootenay Co-op has hired a security guard.

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
104 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

IH is reporting the new numbers since Friday, Nov. 20

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

(Pixabay)
All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Prior announcement had said everything except spin, HIIT and hot yoga could remain open

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Liberal interim leader Shirley Bond speaks to reporters from Prince George via Zoom conference, Nov. 24, 2020. MLAs are being sworn in for the legislature session this week, many of them also by video. (B.C. legislature)
B.C. Liberal leadership contest will wait for election post-mortem

Interim leader set to face NDP on payments for COVID-19

Most Read