Let’s Go Fishing

As many of you know, I have been able to break two stories (here and here) which show some very disturbing tactics of the CHRT, the CHRC and other various parties.  I have been able to dig this stuff up through the Access to Information Act.  My first two requests were directed to the CHRT. They were dealt with quickly and professionally. No complaints there.  But now, I am hearing some very disturbing reports from Marc Lemire, the gentlemen who first busted Dean Steacy’s infamous “jadewarr” cover, about stalling and outright refusal to co-operate with releasing requested information by the CHRC.

Here are Mr. Lemire’s comments which he first made in my comment box on another blog entry:

Now I am not one to generally talk decent about the Tribunal, but their access to information office is the best one I have ever dealt with, over the close to 100 access requests I have filed in the past 3 years.

I have done probably over 15 access requests to the Tribunal, and I have to say that are generally very prompt and provide the requested information in a professional manner.

Now the CHRC is the exact opposite. I have filed a similar number of requests to them, and they refused almost every one or “neither confirm nor deny the requested information exists”. Which makes it very hard to appeal.

For instance, back in 2006 I filed the following access requests to the CHRC:

1:
Total amount of monies paid to Richard Warman for the following Canadian Human Rights Tribunal case: Richard Warman and Canadian Human Rights Commission Vs. WCFU/Glenn Bahr. Tribunal file number: T1087/6805. Location: Edmonton, Alberta. Dates: 2006/05/23 to 2006/06/01. Richard Warman was a witness for the Commission. Please give a total amount and a breakdown of costs. This includes, but not limited to: witness fees, travel expenses, accommodation (hospitality) expenses, meal allowances, preparation fees and/or any fees and disbursements paid. If a summary of costs can not be provided, then a copy of all receipts.

2:
Total amount of monies paid to Richard Warman for the following Canadian Human Rights Tribunal case: Richard Warman/CHRC Vs. Kulbashian/Richardson/CECT. Tribunal file number: T869/11903. Location: Oakville, ON. Dates: 2004/08/30 to 2004/09/03, 2004/10/15, 2004/11/08 to 2004/11/17 and 2005/02/23 to 2004/02/25. Richard Warman was a witness for the Commission. Please give a total amount and a breakdown of costs. This includes, but not limited to: witness fees, travel expenses, accommodation (hospitality) expenses, meal allowances, preparation fees and/or any fees and disbursements paid.

3:
Total amount of monies paid to Richard Warman for the following Canadian Human Rights Tribunal case: Richard Warman and Canadian Human Rights Commission Vs. Tomasz Winnicki. Tribunal file number: T1021/0205. Location: Toronto, Ontario. Dates: 2005/07/09 and 2005/10/17 to 2005/10/21. Richard Warman was a witness for the Commission. Please give the total amount and a breakdown of costs. This includes, but not limited to: Witness fees, travel expenses, accommodation (hospitality) expenses, meal allowances, preparation fees and/or any fees and disbursements paid. Provide a summary of costs, or receipts.

In a letter dated October 12, 2006, the Canadian Human Rights Commission denied my request for information saying “Pursuant to subsection 10(2) of the Act, we will neither confirm nor deny the existence of the information you are seeking. If such information did exist, it would be exempted from access under s. 17 and s. 19(1) of the Act.”

I filed three appeals with the Information Commission of Canada on the grounds that:

This information should be released and the sections of the Act quoted as reasons to deny me are outrageous. I am seeking the amount of taxpayer’s money that was given to a witness in a public hearing.

This is troubling for me since I have fired off two more Access to Information requests this week, but this time I have directed them to the CHRC not the CHRT

I don’t like the smell of this. That’s why I think I will need a lawyer to play the heavy with these guys.  If they don’t cough up what I am looking for, I’m thinking of getting the lawyers involved.  Folks, this Access to Information Act can tell us a whole lot of things.  It’s a virtual goldmine. 

Can any of you donate to my investigation if I need a lawyer?  A good crowbar costs money.  And to catch a prize fish, you need a good pole.  Help me go fishing. E-mail me to pledge a few bucks: inquire1 @ catholic-legate.com.

Check out what a friend of mine wrote who has had some experience with the ATIP:

Absolutely!  We get requests like that once in a while. No joke! 

Your request can be for anything. Be creative. You can ask for any record containing the word Jadewarr if you want. There are no limits to what you can request. Cast the net very wide. Some journalists make a living off of the ATIP Act. There’s actually a freelance ‘researcher’ in Ottawa named <XYZ> who does nothing else for a living except submit ATIP requests and sell the good stuff to journalists, lobbyists, politicians, etc.

There are only 2 limitations.

1.  The Act provides some exemptions for sensitive material (e.g. issues regarding national security, labour negotiations, other negotiations with provincial or foreign governments, info that could cause prejudice to the economic interests of Canada or of a specific company, personal tax info, etc). The list of exemptions is provided in the Act. I can’t think of any that would justify the exclusion of the ‘Absent’ item.

2.  The only other limitation is cost. If you cast the net so wide that it will take them many hours to dig through the filing cabinets and hard drives in order to fulfill your request, then they will reply to you and submit a ‘fee estimate’. The Act allows the government to charge about 10 bucks an hour for the time they will spend digging up your info (in addition to the cost of the photocopies). So they make a ballpark estimate of how much time it will take them and they submit a cost to you. At that point, you have 2 options:  you can pay the cost in full and get all the relevant documents; or you can narrow the scope of your request and see if the cost drops to a more affordable level. 

The pros know how to cast the net wide and then strategically narrow the scope later if the cost is prohibitive. For example, you can ask for only the records produced between certain dates.

By the way, a ‘record’ is a generic term that designates any type of file that the government can possess:  Word document, PowerPoint presentation, PDF, spreadsheet, hand-written stuff, emails, etc.  But just to be on the safe side, its good to list all the possible media to make sure they don’t overlook any.

It’s like a fishing expedition!

2 thoughts on “Let’s Go Fishing

  1. Hi John,

    No problem. I have long, rigid pole that hasn’t snagged any
    [b]ass this season.
    Are you a paypal customer? I’ll cut you some bait and send it to your e-mail.

    Gary

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