BC’s Information and Privacy Office has stated that once their office has ruled that the release of certain information is not in the Public Interest, it never will be. This is the interpretation of Ted Gerk & John Hof, pro-life researchers trying to collect the stats on how many abortions were performed at Kelowna General Hospital and Vancouver General Hospital, of yesterday’s OIPC decision.
Both Hospitals had appealed the progression of the FOI Inquiry, citing Section 56 of the Information & Privacy Act, stating that because the OIPC had ruled on the release of abortion stats in the past, there was no reason to look at any new evidence that may or may not be presented.
Gerk had received a letter, dated March 31, 2010, stating that the official “Notice of Inquiry” was to be sent out on April 27, 2010, with first submissions of the inquiry due May 18, 2010. The Inquiry was to be held on June 2, 2010. (That letter is available here: https://stopabortioncensorship.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/inquiry2010.pdf )
Gerk stated, “It forced us in the ironic position of being part of an inquiry to decide if there should be an inquiry. An entirely new hurdle the OIPC seems to be bent on putting citizens through. After a whole year of working within the rules, we basically had 4 days to present a case, when both hospitals made their last minute appeals to stop the inquiry, literally moments before the notice of inquiry was to be mailed. Hardly fair and hardly democratic.”
“Strangely, such a decision is not open to judicial review….another un-democratic hurdle. It was our understanding the basic premise of the Information & Privacy Act was that citizens have a basic right to records and data collected by and for them? Obviously this “decision” flies in the face of that idea. They have shut down any request, now and in the future, for records that might be in the public interest detailing abortion statistics. How can they possibly know what event might transpire in the future?“ He added.
“British Columbia record keeping, as regards to abortion statistics, has deteriorated so badly in recent years that even Statistics Canada refuses to publish abortion numbers for our province. Their official document states the numbers for BC are “too unreliable to be published” What is happening here is a culture of secrecy and censorship that seeks to remove abortion as a topic for discussion or debate. (See: http://www40.statcan.gc.ca/l01/cst01/health40a-eng.htm )
The next step? Gerk stated: “We happen to believe that government should never have the right to censor information on any topic….that in a free and democratic society all topics can be discussed. In -Dagg v Canada (Minister of Finance) 1997 it was stated: ‘‘the overarching purpose of access to information legislation is to facilitate democracy. It helps to ensure first, that citizens have the information required to participate meaningfully in the democratic process, and secondly, that politicians and bureaucrats remain accountable to the citizenry.’’
In the interest of keeping up the pressure on the government’s silence on abortion stats, we will continue to make Freedom of Information Requests, to educate British Columbia politicians on the implications of censorship in a democracy, and continue our education of citizens through our blog and Facebook group:
The decisions can be found here: