“If you kept the small rules, you could break the big ones.” ― George Orwell
Filed under: “Things that make you go hmmm…”
In response to my last post, I’ve received many emails asking about the removal of penalties from Bill 5- the Information Management Act. It’s clearly an issue people are concerned about but an obstacle for many is simply the language contained in reading the act or even going through Hansard to find the info.
While it’s heartening to see that average citizens really are interested in this, the focus on the ‘duty to document’ portion of the legislation( or lack there-of ) has puzzled many. The issue lies to the assumption in this legislation, that government documents exist at all. It has long been a concern that the use of non-government cell phones and emails to conduct government business is one way of avoiding potentially messy stories in the press. (Hillary Clinton has recently been in the news for issues relating to this)
Of course, partaking of such activities to get around freedom of information laws certainly would be a purely accidental action in this government, I’m sure. ( insert an eyeroll here) So yes, it is a big issue that the legislation governing how government documents decisions and actions has teeth. But what also must have teeth is portions of the legislation that govern what happens if you break those laws. And this where the questions about Bill 5 are arising.
This is the link to the third reading and report of Bill 5 in the legislature – it starts at little more than half-way down the page: http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/40th4th/20150526pm-House-Blues.htm
Here is a shot from where NDP MLA Doug Routley addresses this section specifically,and the answer the chair (Liberal MLA Douglas Horne ) gives him. And it goes nowhere.And that’s the end of it! Click on the image for a closer look.
The Chair says defeating the section would cause substantially the same thing,the amendment is ruled out of order and that section goes onto be approved!
What is Section 5 of the Offence Act, found here? http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/96338_01#section5
It is the section that defines a General offence under the law.
5 A person who contravenes an enactment by doing an act that it forbids, or omitting to do an act that it requires to be done, commits an offence against the enactment. ”
Section 18 of the Information Management Act states this will not apply to the new act. Meaning no penalties for failing to comply with the policies within the act.
That has many, including myself, furrowing their brows.
While it’s understandable that no public servant who, with no malice or premeditation destroys or otherwise fails to comply with the policies under this new legislation should face an unfair punishment, I expect the spirit of the law would be mindful of that.
But to remove all penalties completely, is to enable and protect those that may in fact purposefully, with intent but perhaps with or without premeditation, break the law and policy.
For example, any person who willfully deleted emails to circumvent or foil an FOI process. Or anyone who knowingly fails to document key actions of government, or willfully destroys any records or documents.
Having removed the offence act from applying to information management is such a questionable step backwards when it comes to transparency and accountability in government, that alarm bells should be ringing.
And I question why they aren’t.
*This is a link to the progress of the bill-note no embedded links on Bill 5: http://www.leg.bc.ca/40th4th/votes/progress-of-bills.htm
* This is the link to the final vote on Bill 5: http://www.leg.bc.ca/40th4th/votes/v150526.htm