The Right to Know: Tell Us About OPCAT Please?

Swiftly following on from Canada’s Right to Know Week (24-28 September 2018) the Canada OPCAT Project today lodged a complaint with the Information Commissioner of Canada concerning a ‘deemed refusal’ of information on the part of Justice Canada (the Department of Justice).

As was documented in detail previously on this website, a request was filed on 5 June 2018 under the Access to Information Act (ATIP) for specific information concerning the implementation of the OPCAT in Canada.

Information Commissioner

Followers of this website will also clearly recall that, less than two weeks ago, Canada stated before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that it had accepted the core Universal Periodic Review recommendation (made by 27 countries no less) that it consider ratification of the OPCAT.

Thus, it seems especially surprising that no response has been elicited from Justice Canada (positive or negative) concerning a UN instrument which Canada may soon ratify.


ATIP Request on OPCAT

To briefly recap, in early June 2018, an ATIP request was filed to obtain a copy of a Justice Canada legal analysis of Canada’s potential accession to the OPCAT. The document was referred to in Department of Justice correspondence also obtained through an ATIP request earlier in the year. Several weeks later, on 28 June 2018, Justice Canada responded to this second ATIP request, stating that it required a 60-day extension to comply with the application.

As this 60-day extension has long since past, a complaint of ‘deemed refusal’ was lodged on 1 October 2018 with the Information Commissioner of Canada.

According to the 2017-2018 Annual Report of the Information Commissioner, Justice Canada was the subject of 61 new complaints during this same period (please see page 26 of the report). Even though the institution is less frequently a source of complaints for members of the public (as compared with other Canadian government departments and agencies), it nevertheless remains frustrating that a formal complaint has been deemed necessary in this particular instance. Even so, the Canada OPCAT Project is hopeful that a response will be forthcoming from Justice Canada in the near future.

For Canadian readers who would like a quick primer on why the right to information is so important, Canadian Information Commissioner Caroline Maynard is here to tell you why (in English and French):

Information Commissioner complaint

Canadian Information Commissioner Caroline Maynard presents Right to Know Week 2018