Saturday, April 16, 2016

What secrets "lie" behind the high, cloistered hallowed, walls of the Supreme Court of Canada Building? You'll never know unless you live to be 103 because .....


Dear Mr. Pieuk:

Good afternoon, thank you for your email. The Supreme Court of Canada is not an institution covered by the Access to Information Act. The Commissioner recommended in her recent report on the modernization of the Act that bodies providing administrative support to the courts, such as the Registry of the Supreme Court, be covered.

Best regards,

Josée Villeneuve
Directrice des affaires publiques / Director of Public Affairs

Téléphone / Telephone: 819-994-1784
Télécopieur / Facsimile: 819-994-1768

30 Victoria, Gatineau (Québec) K1A 1H3

Site Web / Website: www.ci-oic.gc.ca
Twitter: @OIC_CI_Canada
Facebook: www.facebook.com/OICCANADA

Commissariat à l’information du Canada / Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada

From: CLARE PIEUK [mailto:pieuk@shaw.ca]
Sent: February 27, 2016 10:40 AM

To: _General
Cc: Jody.Wilson-Raybould@parl.gc.ca; jacs-snm@fja-cmf.gc.ca; nsabourin@judicom.ca; Johanna Laporte; media@scc-csc.ca; rocco@idirect.com
Subject: Attention: Ms Suzanne Legault

Dear Ms Legault:

You are to be applauded for recognizing one of several serious flaws in public access to federal government information:

http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/02/25/news/bring-ministerial-offices-under-access-law-ensure-accountability-watchdog

While there are no Philadelphia lawyers at CyberSmokeBlog, it's very limited understanding is Paragraph 70(3)(a) of The Privacy Act governs what the Office of the federal Information Commissioner can and cannot do.

Said provision mandates after 20-years cabinet documents can no longer be excluded from application under the Access to Information Act. Problem is, of course, after 20-years those Ministers responsible for crafting the legislation are more than likely long gone spending their winters in Florida, Mexico or the Caribbean on their platinum-gilded taxpayer pensions. So where's the timeliness, accountability and transparency? There is none.

However, the problem is even larger than you've documented it's called the Supreme Court of Canada. Recently, the Washington Post ran an excellent/outstanding article documenting the outside, off the bench activities of the United States highest court Justices. Cf.:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/19/

Scalia-died-at-a-secluded-texas-ranch-heres-where-else-the-supreme-court-justices-go-when-they-leave-town/?

The detailed findings of the article were only possible because the annual self-disclosure forms of the Justices are a matter of public record. Not so here. In fact, one of CSB's readers has complained in the past about the difficulty obtaining copies of speeches/addresses given by SCC Justices when requested from the Court's Executive Legal Officers. Even CyberSmokeBlog has experienced first hand on a couple occasions reasonable information requests simply being ignored.

Upon posting the aforementioned study, in a Postscript CSB concluded:

Much of the grist for the American article came from the Justices' annual financial disclosure forms, which report income earned from investments and other sources, spousal income, financial liabilities and reimbursements from outside groups for justices' food transportation, lodging and entertainment.

So the question for you, Ms Legault, becomes are similar self-disclosure forms for Supreme Court of Canada Justices exempt from Access to Information requests thus remaining hidden behind the high, cloistered walls of the Supreme Court of Canada? A quick online check seemed to suggest they indeed are - anyone know for sure?

Sincerely,

Clare L. Pieuk
Blogmaster
CyberSmokeBlog
Copies:

Federal Minister of Justice
Jody.Wilson-Raybould@parl.gc.caWilliam C. Brooks
Commissioner
Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada
jacs-snm@fja-cmf.gc.ca
Canadian Judicial Council
nsabourin@judicom.ca
jlaporte@judicom.ca
Gib van Ert
media@scc-csc.ca

Rocco Galati
rocco@direct.com

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