Some Parting Thoughts from the Information Commissioner

As I prepare to turn off my computer and exit the incredible job of Information Commissioner of Canada, I want to leave a message to Canadians.

That message is:  Demand More.

That’s the principle that has guided me throughout the ten plus years I’ve devoted to access to information.

Demand more from your government.  More openness, more transparency, more access.

The right of access plays the vital role of holding government to account.

It is a necessary prerequisite to transparency, accountability and public engagement.

It is, in short, a critical pillar of our democracy.

That’s why we need to ensure that Canadians can access government records on spending, policies, historical records and much more.

I really believe that we all could benefit from the increased level of scrutiny that a truly modernized and progressive Access to Information Act could bring to those who hold positions of power in our democracy.

That’s the type of legislative reform I’ve championed as I’ve worked to safeguard and enhance the right of access in this country.

Throughout my time as Information Commissioner, I have used all the means at my disposal to affect change.  And I’m proud of the work I’ve done with the support of the incredibly devoted team at the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada:

Am I satisfied with the progress that has been made? Not entirely, but my team and I have moved the yardstick in terms of access to information policy, case law, and the system itself.

If we think of our progress in access to information as climbing Mount Everest, we’ve gone from basecamp to the camp #1.  At this point, we can look back with some satisfaction on what we have accomplished, but we also know that there are more camps we must trek to as we progress toward the summit.

It’s time to give way to someone else to lead the next leg of this expedition, and so I’ve been asked what advice I would give to my successor.

To the future information commissioner I say:  preserve your independence at all costs, let your moral compass and objective facts guide you, and perform your duties with integrity and courage.

I would also remind them that, as with so many other tasks, our work is more of a marathon than a 100 yard-dash.

Ultimately, the Information Commissioner is just one person.  It is up to all Canadians to keep pushing the government for true progress in the area of access to information.

We all have a stake in ensuring this pillar of our democracy is sound.

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