This is an open letter to the BC Civil Liberties Association:
In the 2001 Annual report of your organization, it addressed new FOI legislation (Bill 21-2001) that censored the release of abortion-related information as such:
In the dying days of the New Democrat government, the Abortion Services Statutes Amendment Act was passed, amending B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to exempt information related to abortion services from disclosure. David Loukidelis, B.C.’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, sharply criticized this change, arguing it is unnecessary given other safeguards in the Act to protect the recipients and providers of abortion services and that subject-based mandatory exemptions undermine the purpose of access to information laws. The BCCLA joined forces with the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association to oppose this creeping, and unprincipled, repeal of FOIPPA. In response to the concerns raised by the BCCLA, Sandy Santori, Minister of Management Services, has assured us that the new Liberal government’s legislative review of FOIPPA will include a reconsideration of this exemption. We are engaged in ongoing consultation with the government with respect to this and other issues raised in that legislative review.
I’m writing to ask you what has your organization done since then to see the provisions of this bill overturned? Are we truly free when government has decided there is one topic that freedom of information laws do not apply?
I am to understand that I can know, through legislation, that my local hospital is performing abortions, but not how many? Is there any other surgical procedure in which this is done? Is there any other issue where I am not allowed to know how many, if any, women have died or suffered complications from? Can I know who is lobbying on this public policy issue? Am I allowed to peek and see if government officials are meeting secretly with political groups and discussing their political opponents?
If you check the history on this issue, you will note that the only threat that ever occurred over the release of abortion related information, was one of embarrassment. The Attorney General of BC filed a false affidavit over the issue and almost had to resign….and subsequent release of information continued to embarrass government officials – from secret meetings with political groups to babies being allowed to die after their abortion.
Since I was born and raised in BC, I can remember many more threats over environmental issues in BC than abortion. Yet would your organization tolerate government adding environmental issues to the list of “forbidden” topics – indeed any other public policy issue?
It seems to me it is high time for your organization to act. In fact, it is past time. So the question I put to you – does the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association really believe in freedom of information – on every topic? Does is it support the campaign for open government in every area? Or are you just selective in your quest for honest and open government? Just what freedom of information are you “advancing”?
Your continued silence these past few years is embarrassing.
I look forward to hearing how you will address my concerns.