Saturday, May 03, 2008

Media Reports Government Wants to Can Access to Information Database

The Toronto Star is reporting that the federal government is putting an end to the Coordination of Access to Information Requests System (CAIRS), an internal database of every request filed to all federal departments and agencies under the Access to Information Act (ATIA).

Alasdair Roberts, a Canadian professor at Syracuse University in New York, created a public version of CAIRS by requesting electronic records through ATIA requests and then posting monthly updates of the information. In 2006, CBC journalist David McKie created another publicly accessible website based on CAIRS data.

CAIRS was seen by lawyers, reporters, and government watchdog groups as a very useful resource. They could mine the information in the database, approach government departments and request copies of already released documents.

According to the May 2, 2008 Toronto Star article entitled Tories kill information registry:
"A spokesman for Treasury Board confirmed Friday that the system is being killed because 'extensive' consultations showed it was not valued by government departments."

(...)

"If departments and agencies are no longer required to update the CAIRS database with new requests, its value as an accountability tool will quickly diminish, critics said."

" 'This is terrible and I consider this to be yet one more step in making records less accessible,' said Michel Drapeau, a lawyer, frequent user and co-author of a standard reference work on access law." [Drapeau is co-author of Federal Access to Information Act and Privacy Legislation Annotated]

" 'To do this now after the CAIRS' usefulness has been proven over and over again is indicative of the extent to which government will go to stifle the access regime'."
Earlier Library Boy posts about CAIRS include:
  • Access to Information Database Updated to June 2005 (August 7, 2005): "Prof. Alasdair Roberts from Syracuse University has updated his Canadian access to information request database (...) According to Roberts, a former Queen's University scholar who has maintained the database since early 2002, this will be the last update. The page will not be maintained after August 31."
  • New Access to Information Database (April 15, 2006): "David McKie, an award-winning member of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's investigative reporting unit, has set up an access to information / freedom of information website that 'allows you to search a database of requests for information filed with departments and agencies of the Canadian government under Canada's Access to Information Act' (...) This website takes over from where Syracuse University professor Alasdair Roberts left off in August 2005."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:29 pm

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