Supreme Court slightly restricts scope of future government cover-ups

Supreme Court slightly restricts scope of future government cover-ups

Reporters across the land are filled with ambiguous cheer as the Supreme Court of Canada has modestly, incrementally, fractionally expanded Canadians’ freedom to access information from their government. The case at hand involves a decades-old mob hit in which prosecutors seem to have dropped the ball, but a 1998 OPP investigation has never been released to the public. The Supremes have ordered the case to be sent back to Anne Cavoukian, Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner.

The Globe and Mail sums up the mixed emotions on this ruling:

CLA lawyer Brad Elberg said the ruling makes Canada “the first Western country to recognize that access to information is not just a gift to Canadians. It is guaranteed to us as part of our constitutional right of freedom of expression.”

However, Paul Schabas, a media lawyer, expressed disappointment that the court did not go on to recognize a general right of access to information under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “The Court had a great opportunity to send that message here, but only took a limited baby step in considering the Charter’s application,” he said.

When the best the winners can muster is a partial victory, we’re probably not living in a free-speech paradise—but we’re on our way. This decision is a small speed bump on the road to the next big cover-up and scandal. Until then, journos can be thankful that the government keeps getting into trouble with this kind of stuff. How else would we fill our front pages?

• Supreme Court establishes constitutional right to information – within limits [Globe and Mail]
• Ontario (Public Safety and Security) v. Criminal Lawyers’ Association [Supreme Court of Canada]
• Small win for lawyers seeking Racco report [Hamilton Spectator]
• Supreme Court slightly eases access to info [Montreal Gazette]