May 24, 2007

Attorney General of Ontario wins Code of Silence award

I may be wrong, but I think this is the first time I've seen a newspaper article about the Ontario Liberal government's "code of silence". It's about time.

You can visit the Toronto Star article, but this is such an important issue, I've included the full text of the article below. My apologies to the Star, but I don't want this one to disappear into the archives.

Also see a similar response from the Attorney General's office to the Ontario PC Party regarding the costs of implementing and defending the province's "pit bull" ban.

These guys have clearly forgotten that they are public servants, accountable to the people. On October 10, I, for one, will be making sure they remember.

Arrogance of this magnitude should not be rewarded with success at the polls.

Original Toronto Star article May 24 2007:

Attorney General wins Code of Silence award

May 24, 2007
Tracey Tyler

His government charges fees for the right to look at a public court file.

It also has a policy that blocks access to important documents filed during trials.

And today, for keeping up a wall between the public and the justice system, Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant will be presented with the Code of Silence Award, which recognizes "the most secretive government body in Canada."

Bryant will be handed the brass padlock by the Canadian Association of Journalists at its global investigative journalism conference at the downtown Hilton.

He was singled out for imposing the highest fees in Canada for public access to court records – $32 to simply view a file.

Bryant's ministry also charges $2 a page for photocopying documents – fees that can easily add up to hundreds of dollars, a sum beyond the reach of many members of the public and journalists reporting on the courts.

Association president Paul Schneidereit calls it "a public issue, not a media issue."

"The bottom line is, do we want to have a democracy, or do we want to have a chequebook democracy – where democracy and what it stands for is only available if you can write a big enough cheque?" he asked.

Court files contain "some of the most fundamental public records" and should not be hidden behind "outrageous" fees, Schneidereit said.

Bryant was named the recipient of the award last year. He agreed to collect it in person today at the conference – the first recipient to ever do so.

"He is pleased to be invited," said Greg Crone, his chief of staff. Ironically, Bryant created a Justice and the Media Committee last year for the purpose of increasing openness and access in the justice system.

At the CAJ conference, Bryant plans to update journalists on the Justice and the Media Committee's work and make an announcement, Crone said.

Schneidereit said Bryant has also agreed to answer questions during a "town hall" session.

Nominees for the 2007 award include the foreign affairs department for denying the existence of documents related to the treatment of Afghan detainees and Transport Canada for fighting to keep aviation safety data under wraps.

The Ontario government is also in the running, once again – this time for refusing to give the provincial Ombudsman the power to investigate hospitals. Ontario is the only Canadian province where hospitals are not open to such scrutiny.

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Dianne said...

The Fibs haven't forgotten they are public servants.

They never believed it in the first place.

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