I submit a few Access to Information requests every week on behalf of clients. This is a law that allows any Canadian citizen, permanent resident or corporation to ask for records from most federal departments and agencies. The law itself is outdated (it was passed when I was in high school and has yet to see substantive revisions) and riddled with loopholes. The Trudeau government promised to update the law and 16 months in to the “open and transparent” mandate, everyone is still waiting. My friend Dean Beeby said it best just yesterday in this interview with As it Happens.
Last week I wanted to ATIP the Courts Administration Services. This is the bureaucracy that supports the work of some federal courts including the Court of Appeal, Tax Court, Federal Court of Canada and the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada. I called and spoke to a helpful woman in the registry office. To paraphrase her, ‘well of course we must be covered by the Act. We’re government. I can’t seem to find anyone with that responsibility but no matter.’ She gives me the wrong street address to mail my form ‘Oh darn, we moved to Sparks Street years ago. I’m so old’. When asked who to make out the cheque (Access requests cost $5 each) she hesitates. ‘Usually it is to the Receiver General of Canada, but some Crown agencies are different’ I suggest. ‘Just make it out to the Receiver General. I’m sure that will work’ she chirps.
But. I know the registry woman was just trying to be helpful but…. I’m just going to check a few places before I mail my cheque.
First I checked with the site where you can file some – but not all – Access requests electronically. Courts Administration is not listed. Then I checked the list of Access Coordinators. This would give me the mailing address and tell me if, perhaps they were covered by another department such as the Department of Justice. Not listed. I also checked the “transparency” section of the Courts Administration web site. There should be a link to their ATIP form and completed Access requests there. Nothing.
Finally I go to the Completed Access request database. If the Courts Administration Service has answered any requests in the past few years, they will be listed here. Nothing was listed but I found this by searching the name.
So there you have it. If anyone is interested in atipping the Courts Administration Service, you’re out of luck for now. I’ve requested the briefing note so stand by for an update.