What is Right to Know Week?
September 28, 2015 is International Right to Know Day. Over the week, privacy professionals from more than 40 countries around the world will be looking forward to news and information concerning the individual’s right to know and government accountability and transparency.
What is the Right to Know?
The “Right to Know” is the citizen’s right to access information held by public bodies — this includes provincial ministries, local authorities, schools, etc. As a taxpaying citizen, an individual has the right to know what type of information their government institutions are in possession of concerning them, and also the information concerning projects and policies that have a direct effect on the general public. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we can request every little thing and be entitled to it all—there are limits to everything—but it does mean that we have the right to ask and be responded to. If the response is “here’s your requested information!” or “here is some information, and here are the reasons why we can’t give you more…” the main point is that citizens have the right to ask; that is what Right to Know Week is all about.
What is the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner’s office reflecting on during this week, and into the year ahead?
- Individuals in Saskatchewan are exercising their Right to Know more than ever before— not just for their own personal information, but for general information held by government institutions as well:
- In the 2014-15 fiscal year, the provincial government processed 1,960 access to information requests; 779 for personal information, and 1,181 for general information.
- In the 2014-15 fiscal year, the IPC received 123 Requests for Review (this includes reviews from government institutions, local authorities, and health trustees)—and we are expecting to receive even more this fiscal year!
- Updates, updates, updates. One of our main goals for this year is to push forward proposals for changes to the current access and privacy legislation: The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) and The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (LA FOIP). Our proposals, as outlined in our Annual Report, include:
- Shortening timelines so that citizens get information or decisions sooner;
- Creating a similar process for review of access requests and investigations of breaches of privacy;
- Efficiencies to save time and taxpayers dollars;
- Reaching a broader audience, so that we can provide information regarding the individual’s Right to Know to the people of Saskatchewan more effectively. This would include a stronger presence on social media through Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as branching out to groups such as students in order to “spread the word”.
Before I came to work in the Access and Privacy world, I was completely unaware of the legislation that Saskatchewan had to provide citizens with the Right to Know. Since then (and it really has not been that long!) I have noticed the increase in access to information by citizens. I have to admit, it is encouraging to see.