Monday, February 27, 2017

Ministry of silly walks has nothing on the Ontario Government

Our charter challenge against the Ontario government has been full of details, large and small, that probably to many people are kind of dry and boring.

I myself frequently grow weary of the nonsense we have to deal with when trying to understand the silliness of what the government did when they decided to play what they thought was a trump card with pro-life people who use freedom of information requests to uncover just how many abortions are done in this province every year and what those pre-natal killings cost tax payers--by simply striking those FOIs that uncovered those abortion numbers off the books once and for all.

Easy peasy. Good-bye you pesky pro-lifers. We don't want you commenting on this any more so we'll just shut you down it's none of your business anyway. Kill democratic rights. Kill transparency. Kill openness. Kill accountability. Kill the babies and make sure nobody knows how many babies are being killed.

They thought they were geniuses.

And as I've shown again and again they have made no sense in anything they've said and argued.

For instance. In this blog entry I talk about how the government's lawyer argued to the judge that there was already "a large body of scholarly works on abortion policy" so that should be good enough and I don't need any other information. Which is nonsense in itself, since that argument is really just about censorship and in a democracy censorship of government information should not be allowed unless safety and security is an issue and in this case safety and security is not the issue even though they say it is. Never mind that the "scholarly work" itself grossly under reports what we're looking for..

In fact if we dig a little deeper into the public document that the government points to, the document that the government says should be enough for me and I don't need FOIs on abortion, we learn something that actually argues against their very own safety and security argument.


It's amazing how you can tie yourself up in knots when your arguments are illogical. And silly.


So what is it in that document that works against their S&S argument? Well it's this. According to abortion doctor Wendy Norman there is "minimal or no harassment" of facilities:

"Facilities reported very little harassment (Table 4). No Canadian facility reported a resignation of an abortion provider–physician or any staff member owing to harassment. Only a single facility reported any resignation of an allied health professional staff member, and in this case the facility specified that the one resignation was not owing to violence, fear, or threats. Similarly, two-thirds of reporting facilities (49 of 74, 66.2%) indicated no episodes of harassment or violence in 2012, with a further 28.4% (21 of 74) reporting solely picketing without interference. Among 7 facilities reporting “other” episodes of harassment, half specified only receipt of harassing e-mail."

Or their argument that hey, we're going to give you information outside of FIPPA all you have to do is ask is ask for it. Right. On Feb 2, I sent an email to Minister Eric Hoskins asking for more data. Three weeks and a half later and I still haven't even received an acknowledgement from the Minister.

Never mind that there is no policies, no gudelines, nothing at all that ensures that they will give us the information. Oh but we do have the word of the government that we can get the information. Well then. That's comforting.

And why don't they want this information to be given to us? Because we might want to defund abortion. Well yes we do but what has that got to do with freedom of expression rights? Nothing.

So what is this bogus safety and security argument anyway? Just one more of the boring silly arguments the government made in an effort to shut down free and open access to information for those pesky pro-lifers who keep asking for information on abortion and the powers that be don't want the public to know so we'll just keep making up silly arguments and wear them down.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Government wrong when it says "large body of scholarly works on abortion policy"

Another argument that the government's lawyer, Dan Guttman made as to why I don't need access to abortion statistics through FOI requests, is that there is already data publicly available:
"There is a large body of scholarly works on abortion policy."

He identifies two public documents written by abortion doctor Wendy Norman along with some other doctors. 

Guttman also brings up CIHI as a source of data. We already know that CIHI's data is grossly under reported (not all clinics report and no doctor's offices report abortions at all). Now we learn that the two additional reports by Dr. Wendy Norman (Abortion Health Services in Canada and First-trimester medical abortion practices in Canada) also under report abortion data, one of them actually reports less abortions than CIHI does.

1) Abortion health services in Canada (Objective: To determine the location of Canadian abortion services relative to where reproductive-age women reside and the characteristics of abortion facilities and providers.)

This paper is based on a national survey of abortion providers. It reports that 75,650 abortions were done in 2012. CIHI reported 83,708 abortions in 2012:
"We report the first detailed data on abortion facilities and providers in Canada, including data on facilities providing 90.4% of the total number of Canadian abortions (83,708) reported to the Canadian Institute for Health Information for 2012".
The report makes no mention of the fact that the 83,708 CIHI number is also an incorrect under reported number, but the statement leads the reader to believe that CIHI's numbers are accurate when they are not. My calculations based on my 2010 FOI requests show that OHIP numbers were 53.28% higher that CIHI's numbers that year. And since every year since 2010 we have not had accurate data, I've had to estimate the numbers.

And now we know, my 53.28% number is probably even higher based on what we learned from the government during our court appearance.

2) First-trimester medical abortion practices in Canada (Objective: To understand the current availability and practice of first-trimester medical abortion (MA) in Canada):
"A strength of this study was the high response rate, allowing it to capture 90.4% of the terminations reported to CIHI in 2012.1 It also presents the first picture of MA in Canada and can provide a basis for further evaluations. However, we recognize that it might not be completely representative; physicians were recruited from publicly advertised sites providing surgical abortion services, which might have introduced a lower response rate from hospital-based services and from MA providers not associated with an advertised abortion facility. Another potential limitation is the low response rate observed in Ontario (56.3%), a high-population area; thus, the results of this survey might not be generalizable to every province, especially Ontario."
Another problem is that these reports are not published annually. And there is no guarantee that they would be published every year, and most probably won't be. Since these two Wendy Norman reports are for 2012 stats, but were only published in 2016 (four years later), it's pretty certain that these reports are probably a one off. Reports that are published occasionally or only once, are not a good argument for telling someone there is already abortion information out there. And two public one-off reports that are known to under report abortion data, does not qualify as a "large body of scholarly works", wouldn't you say?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Hiding abortion information was done for political reasons

The Ontario government argued (at length) that they had safety and security concerns regarding my requests for abortion data.

If safety and security was a concern, then why didn't they ever tell me that way before our court date? Because they couldn't defend their specious argument.

Back when I was originally denied my FOI request, I sent multiple letters to Deb Matthews and Kathleen Wynne, asking them to give me a reason why they had enacted this law. After repeatedly sending follow emails to both of them; after repeated phone calls to their offices; after meeting with m MPP Madeleine Meilleur who told me to contact the Minister of Health Deb Matthews--I received no answers.

(Wynne always referred me back to Deb Matthews refusing to be accountable herself.)

Meilleur did tell me when I met her that the change was enacted for "privacy" reasons. Which makes no sense because I never asked for, nor did I ever get, any private information.

Minister Deb Matthews did tell me though that "These amendments were debated and passed in the Legislature." Which is untrue. The abortion exclusion clause was never debated in the legislature, nor in committee hearings. Never debated at all. And notice Matthews never mention the so-called safety and security argument in her letter to me. Why not? Because the government hadn't dreamt up that argument yet at that point.

Fast forward to my bringing a charter challenge against the government, and all of a sudden safety and security is the main basis for their defense of their change to FIPPA. You know I wasn't born on a turnip truck.

In any case, do they really expect us to believe that safety and security could possibly be an issue when I never asked for any personal information of anyone, but was only asking for three aggregate numbers:
  • Total of Abortions done in hospitals
  • Total of Abortions done in clinics
  • Total of Abortions done in physician's offices
I never asked for hospital names. I never asked for patient names. I never asked or clinic names. I never asked for the location of any of these abortion places. So there was no privacy concerns. There was no safety concerns. There was no security concerns.

The Wild West of getting abortion information

I've finally started going through some of my notes from the court proceedings of our charter challenge from Feb. 1.

I have documented below where the judge asked some pretty hard questions to the government's lawyer.

In a nut shell, this exchange is about the government saying that we can have abortion information all we need to do is ask. But as the judge points out, there is no guarantee that one can get the information. There are no policies or guidelines to get this information, and if we are refused the information, our only recourse is to take the government to court. In other words we can't appeal to the information and privacy commissioner (like before), We have to go to court and incur costs. How's that for accessible open and transparent government?

As we know, accessing information through FIPPA (as used to be the case), there were all kinds or rules that guided what could and couldn't be divulged. This ensured that any privacy concerns would be properly dealt with.

But if this clause is allowed to stay in place, we are left with access to abortion information being given based solely on the whim of government bureaucrats (maybe today I'll give it to you and maybe tomorrow I won't), and not protected anymore by law (FIPPA).

This exchange began with the Attorney General's lawyer Dan Guttman saying that abortion data would be made available on a case by case basis.
J: How does the court rely on your assertion that the data is available on a case by case basis? 
L: We did release information during the first litigation, so there is a past history of doing it and we've done it again in this case. And we are saying in a publicly filed document not only is it our position but these are the numbers.
J: So then in order to get the information, people who are seeking the information
have to start court proceedings? 
L: No. So far that has been the extent of our disclosure outside of FIPPA, but today we are saying publicly both in our factum and in court here today before you that if we are asked, our position will if we are asked, we will give generalized abortion statistics out. 
J: What does that mean?
L:  ...if there is an exclusion you are entitled to ask government and when you ask government for that information, the government has to weigh the decision just like in any other decision...you make the request and if the request is denied you have the decision by the court. And we are saying we are going to give out this information. 
J: Where are you saying that? You're saying that here today to me, that doesn't mean anything, you haven't made a public statement, you haven't put into place a policy that will allow me as a court to be reassured that information that is outside the stated intent of the legislation is going to be made available. The only two examples I have is where litigation has been started...
The government has no policy, no guidelines, no rules and no laws regarding divulging abortion information when we ask for it. We just have to believe they will.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Patrick Brown and freedom of expression rights

The email chain below speaks for itself.

From: Patricia Maloney 
Date: Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 11:27 AM
Subject: Re: Ontario government hiding abortion information
To: patrick.brown@ontariopc.com
Cc: Patricia Maloney


Dear Patrick,

I still haven't heard back from you regarding my question below. 

I take this to mean that you don't support freedom of expression rights regarding the Ontario Government's decision to hide abortion information?

Unless you provide me with an answer that negates that position, I'll let the readers of my blog know this is why I haven't heard back from you on this.

Thanks

Patricia Maloney


On Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 4:58 PM, Patricia Maloney <maloneyp64@gmail.com> wrote:
Dear Patrick,

Still waiting for an answer.

Thanks
Patricia Maloney

On Mon, Jan 9, 2017 at 1:12 PM, Patricia Maloney <maloneyp64@gmail.com> wrote:
Dear Mr. Brown,

Can you please tell me your position on the Ontario government's decision in 2012 to hide all abortion related information?

You can read more on this at my blog at:

I am challenging the Ontario government to overturn their non-accountable, non-transparent, closed law, that prohibits freedom of information requests regarding FIPPA.

I look forward to hearing back from you soon.

Sincerely,
Patricia Maloney