Law and Society@Kwantlen

ATI/FOI Requests: Why we should continue using them.

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The fear of having using the ATI/FOI right is a concern for some people who seek employment with the government as the feel they will be “put on the radar”, decreasing their chances of seeking employment with the government. In the directive on the Administration of the Access Information Act, which was taken into effect on May 5, 2014, states in section 7.4.1 under the heading protection of applicant’s identity it states that it should be “limiting, on a need-to-know basis, the disclosure of information that could directly or indirectly lead to the identification of a requester, unless the requester consents to the disclosure”(Government of Canada, 2014). Though they indicate it is on a need-to-know basis, it does not indicate why and when this information can be used as a need-to know basis. The employees are responsible to complete the request no matter who the requester is, and should only be able to identify the applicant based on the information that he or she has provided in the initial request. However, this can be a concern, that I have experienced recently. I had taken the Criminology 4900 Special Topics class where we were taught how to conduct an Access to Information Request. My focus was on the sharing of information between different agencies and also documents which reveal the number of extraordinary renditions which have taken place in Canada since September 11, 2001. I had sent out my request to two different agencies, the RCMP and CSIS. I did not experience any difficulties from the request that a made with the RCMP, but for CSIS I experienced a very unique incident. I had given my gmail address to contact me if they need any clarification, however I received an e-mail from the Access to Information to my hotmail and kwantlen e-mail accounts. It was very concerning, the e-mail had stated that “the gmail e-mail address written on your request is not clear. If this e-mail finds you, could you kindly reply from your gmail address. We would like to clarify your request”. It was very concerning to me that they were able to find both my kwantlen and hotmail e-mail addresses, and it just shows that the employees have a lot of access to our personal information that they are able to collect and contact a person with information that was not provided to them, so I do understand when a student will not conduct an ATI/FOI request in fear that they may prevent them from getting a future job at a government agencies.
I can see ATI/FOI request being used as surveillance, especially after the September 11, 200l attacks in New York. Privacy rights were “…originally envisioned as a means for individuals to secure a personal space free from state scrutiny are being configured by corporate and state interests”(Haggerty, K.D., & Ericson R.V., 2006, P.10). Though privacy laws that have been in placed in protecting our information, the state uses their power to breach in the name of protecting the country, and infringing on our the rights as citizens. We have the right to this information, but we are scared to use because of the fear that it may back fire on us in the near future. However, I will argue that this should not prevent one from getting a job in a government field. The government and the state is holding back information from us, and also redact the information that we are not “entitled” to, therefore, we have not done anything wrong when requesting information. I find it that if more students took the initiative to conduct the ATI/FOI requests on a topic that they are curious about, or want to know what has happen, they will be more accountability in the government. Bok makes a good point in her article when she states that “…public access to government information is indispensable in the long run for any democratic society”(Bok, S., 1989, P.179). We live in a democratic country in which we should be not be afraid to voice our concerns and opinions. ATI/FOI are great tools to get information and understanding about a topic, and brings in accountability in the government.

References:

Bok, S. (1989). Secrets: on the ethics of concealment and revelation. New York: Vintage
Books. – pp. 3-14 and pp. 171-190
Government of Canada (2014). Directive on the Administration of the Access to Information Act. Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. Retrieved from https://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc- eng.aspx?id=18310&section=text
Haggerty, K. D., & Ericson, R. V. (2006). The New Politics of Surveillance and
Visibility. In R. V. Ericson & K. D. Haggerty (Eds.), The new politics of
surveillance and visibility (pp. 3–25). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

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