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QUESTION PERIOD — Treasury Board Secretariat

Access to Information Requests

November 29, 2022

My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Leader, La Presse says it submitted an access to information request to Justice Canada and was informed a response would be forthcoming within 295 days. My team also submitted an access to information request to Justice Canada on February 3, 2022, almost nine months ago, and the department has yet to produce an answer.

We also submitted an access to information request to Environment and Climate Change Canada. In its response, the department asked us to be more specific about the information we were seeking so as to require less research. We provided those specifics. We were told it could take 150 days. The access to information request we submitted to Canadian Heritage has yielded no response so far.

What’s going on with access to information services? Were the civil servants responsible for access to information all trained by Passport Canada?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

Your question and the issue you raise are both extremely important and serious. Access to information is fundamental in a democracy. Moreover, the Government of Canada recognizes that there are long delays in many areas and in many departments when it comes to requests for information. There are many reasons for that, but they have nothing to do with your reference to Passport Canada. We need to recruit and retain staff. Efforts are under way and are continuing. Progress is clearly being made. That said, there’s a lot of work to be done. The Government of Canada is committed to continuing to make the necessary efforts to respond to requests as quickly as possible.

The same goes for your office. On March 31, I asked you a question about the infamous secret trial. Six months later, the answer was that the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, the PPSC, couldn’t comment further. Leader, how do you explain that it took six months to say, “No comment”?

Senator Gold [ + ]

I thank the honourable senator for the question. As the former Leader of the Government in the Senate, you’re well versed in the steps and processes within the government. This isn’t a question of access to information. As soon as I’m asked a question to which I don’t have the answer, I make the request and my team takes care of it. I’m sorry that it took so long. I’ll follow up and try to get an answer as soon as possible.

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