Bill C-58: Senate improves access to information for Canadians
The Government accepted 16 Senate amendments to the legislation.
Bill C-58 was crafted to increase openness and transparency with major updates to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. Among other changes, it legislated the proactive disclosure of information from government departments and agencies, the Prime Minister’s Office and Ministers’ offices, and institutions that support Parliament, MPs and Senators. It also strengthened the role of the Information Commissioner, and ensures the access-to-information regime will be subject to greater review in future. It’s the first major update to the Access to Information Act since it came into force in 1983.
The Senate’s Role
Senators proposed many significant amendments to the legislation during an in-depth study at the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. One change reduced barriers for Indigenous People to access information – sometimes decades old – in relation to claims seeking justice for past wrongs. Another change required judges to proactively publish their expenses in aggregate form. Senator Pierrette Ringuette, who sponsored Bill C-58 in the Senate, thanked the committee for its “thoughtful consideration” of the legislation. “The work that committees do is meaningful and valuable. They are places where, together, senators can contribute to good public policy and really make a difference in the lives of Canadians,” she said during her third reading speech.
The Government accepted 16 Senate amendments to Bill C-58, including those related to Indigenous People and judges. Further, the Government accepted amendments that:
- Eliminated the Government’s authority to set and collect fees, apart from the $5 application fee;
- Retained Info Source, a tool that allows Canadians to better understand what information is being collected by Government;
- Limited the Government’s power to ask the Information Commissioner to refuse requests to cases that are vexatious, made in bad faith or constitute an abuse that would backlog the system; and
- Strengthening requirements for the review of the legislation, which must begin one year after it receives Royal Assent.