The Québec Access to Information Commission concludes that the City of Sherbrooke has not violated the Act respecting access to documents held by public bodies in the context of a request made by a journalist from La Tribune . The Commission acknowledges that the initial application was not a request for access but nevertheless recommends that the access management system be clarified to the City of Sherbrooke in order to avoid such a request. Situation does not happen again.
Remember that La Tribune wanted to obtain a list of the engineering contracts awarded by the City of Sherbrooke since 2007, as did Councilor Marc Denault. However, the City had not responded within the time limits set out in the Act respecting Access to documents held by public bodies.
The Commission had decided to investigate on its own initiative this application which had not been dealt with in accordance with the Act respecting access to documents held by public bodies and the protection of personal information.
However, the request did not constitute a request for access within the meaning of the Access Act, the administrative judge, Cynthia Chassigneux, said in her decision: “The Commission is of the opinion that the journalist’s request Was more akin to a request to be added to a mailing list and not to a request for access as provided for in section 9 of the Access Act. ”
The mayor of the City of Sherbrooke Bernard Sévigny is pleased with the findings of the Commission, but he is dissatisfied with the media treatment that has been done in this case. It also acknowledges that the City of Sherbrooke’s legal department, which manages approximately 1,200 requests for access to information per year, will have to be reviewed in order to avoid such confusion.
“The Legal Service considered that the follow-up of the application would be simpler if it were slipped into the machine as an access to information request. But the service will have to find one, two or more processes to deal with such requests. It will be done quickly, “says Mayor Sévigny.
Complete revision of the law
For the Quebec Federation of Journalists (FPJQ), this report demonstrates once again that the Access to Information Act is outdated and requires a complete overhaul, as it contains many rules and regulations. Of exceptions that allow organizations to evade.
The president of the FPJQ, Stéphane Giroux, recalls that this law is not there to serve journalists, but to allow the public to have access to documents that are produced by public bodies.
“Governments make decisions all day long that affect our daily lives. People have a right to know how these decisions are made, and they are often taken on the basis of reports, documents, etc. “, Highlights Stéphane Giroux.