Use this province’s access to information legislation, especially since the provincial government moved to “improve” it with Bill 29 last summer, and you’re likely to get page after page of documents with black-inked bars covering up information.
You can only wonder about what kind of super-sensitive information is hidden beneath the black-ink “redaction” bars — and it has to be super-sensitive, because, as the access act explains, people have a right of access to information, with only “limited exceptions to the right of access.”
Still, you have to wonder if the government uses those black-ink bars to serve its own ends.
Well, wonder no more.
A redacted transcript of a CBC Radio interview was included in a set of documents recently obtained by an Internet blogger, Wallace McLean. The problem for the government is that the CBC still has the March 2010 interview online as a podcast, so you can immediately match the two up.
The interview was with a former College of the North Atlantic employee, Peter McBreairty. But you wouldn’t know that from the redacted version: McBreairty’s name has been deleted, even though he appeared on the public airwaves.
The reason the information has been deleted? Because telling what’s already publicly available has to be blocked under Section 30 (1) of the access act — it “would be an unreasonable invasion of a third party's personal privacy.”
You can look at the document on McLean’s website here — http://labradore.blogspot.ca/ — under the headline “Redaction in action.”
As you read the black-marked transcript, you can play a podcast of the interview from here — http://castroller.com/Podcasts/TheWestCoast/1533106 — and listen to exactly what information the province has deemed as secret.
Among the sensitive quotes?
The words “… certainly the departments I’ve been accessing information from, chiefly, the College of the North Atlantic,” have been deleted from a sentence that ends “has been very closed and has certainly not been open or accountable.” Naming the college as intransigent must be a great sin — after all, this provincial government likes to claim it is among the most open and accountable in the nation.
Other sensitive information deemed to harm McBreairty’s privacy, even though he’s giving out the information himself over the airwaves?
“I walked out of the college in 2003 with nothing more than a letter of dismissal given to me by the college in terms of their records, and on the note of solicitor client, I asked for records then and was told that all of my emails were covered under solicitor-client privilege, all my emails, which is absolutely preposterous, but that’s what the college had claimed.”
Another deleted section?
“As recently as February of this year, of 2010, I’ve had records revealed that got closer to why I was dismissed and in fact who dismissed me from the college. It is only now that I’ve been able to get those records.”
The bottom line?
Newfoundland’s access to information law is so restrictive that it even blocks the release of information that is completely publicly available on the Internet. That’s not an opinion: that’s a demonstrable fact.
In other words, it’s nothing like access to information. It’s a bad joke.