This is my first Right to Know Week as Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner. I am excited to join my fellow commissioners from across the country in raising awareness about access rights and freedom of information from September 28 to October 4.
Freedom of information is essential to democracy and good governance, helping citizens gain a better understanding of government decision-making and the policies and issues that matter to them.
As we navigate the enormous challenges associated with COVID-19, the need for openness, transparency, and accountability has never been more important. People are looking for insight into the decisions and actions being taken by governments and institutions to keep their families and communities safe. They are also looking for telling numbers, trends and statistics to try and understand where the hot spots are and why. During these challenging times, institutions must continue to do all they can not only to respond to access requests, but to be proactive in disclosing non-identifiable information that’s important for the public to know in times like these.
I am especially proud of the work the IPC does every day to help Ontarians exercise their access rights. The IPC kicked off 2020 with an expanded mandate under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act. We now support children – as well as adults – looking to access records of their personal information held by children’s aid societies and other family service providers. Outreach materials like our It’s About You brochure are just one of the ways we help to de-mystify the process for young people.
In addition to our work with the public, we publish a number of guides and fact sheets to help public sector institutions understand their obligations under Ontario’s access laws. For example, our recent guide, the Labour Relations and Employment Exclusion, explains how public sector organizations should interpret and apply the exclusion for information about labour relations and employment matters under Ontario’s access laws.
On September 30 from 2 to 3 pm (EST) I will participate in a virtual panel to discuss the issues and challenges associated with being a newly appointed commissioner during this pandemic.
During Right to Know Week, Canadians can tune into a variety of virtual events to learn more about freedom of information and their right to access government information. You can find out about what’s going on across the country by visiting righttoknow.ca.
Another way to join the conversation about access rights is by following the #RTK2020 hashtag on Twitter.
I’m looking forward to the engaging discussions that will take place during Right to Know Week. I hope you will find the time to tune in and be a part of the conversation.