OTTAWA - Some of what information commissioner Suzanne Legault told the Senate finance committee Wednesday about the government's omnibus budget bill.
Legault says a portion of the bill is designed to exempt and nullify not just gun registry data from the Access to Information Act, but all documents related to the registry's destruction.
"On May 7, 2015, Bill C-59 was tabled in Parliament. As you know, I have serious concerns with division 18 of this Bill.
"First, this division will effectively make the Access to Information Act non-applicable, retroactive to October 25, 2011, even before the coming into force of ELRA (the Ending the Long-gun Registry Act). You must ask yourself: Why?
"Second, division 18 shields from the application of the Access to Information Act a broader scope of records than ELRA ever did. It covers not just the records in the long-gun registry as ELRA did, but any records with respect to the destruction of those records.
"This probably means that no one will be able to request information about whether the RCMP has really deleted his or her information from the registry or about how much the destruction of the registry cost Canadian taxpayers. Indeed, no one will be able to find out what transpired in relation to the destruction of the records at issue in my investigation. This is above and beyond what was ever considered by Parliament in 2012. You must ask yourself: Why?
"Third, if division 18 is adopted, it would potentially:
— Nullify the request at issue in my investigation;
— Nullify the complaint made to my office;
— Nullify my entire investigation, including production orders, some 30,000 records and examinations of witnesses under oath;
— Nullify my recommendations to the minister of public safety and my referral to the attorney general;
— Nullify my application to the Federal Court;
— Nullify the police investigation referred to the (Ontario Provincial Police);
— Nullify all potential administrative, civil or criminal liability of any of the actors involved; and
— Essentially nullify the requester's right in this case.
"You must ask yourself: Why?
"These proposed changes, Mr. Chair, would retroactively quash Canadians' right of access and the government's obligations under the Access to Information Act.
"It will effectively erase history.
"Mr. Chair, division 18 of Bill C-59 is not an attempt to close a loophole; but rather it is an attempt to create a black hole.
"Given the fundamental importance of the right of access and the rule of law in Canadian democracy, I would urge this committee to remove division 18 (clauses 230 and 231) from this bill."