Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Abortion bubble zone FOI - "open government" is a farce

Below is an exchange that I had today with the Attorney General's office. The AG wants to charge me $450 to find out how their bubble zone legislation came to be. Legislation which discriminates against pro-life people. Legislation that is not grounded on any evidence. Legislation that all began with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.

It wasn't bad enough that the government has enacted this legislation. Now they want to charge me $450 to find out what went on behind the scenes. They don't want me to know what went on. So they put up a financial roadblock. Pathetic. Unprofessional. Discriminatory. Secrecy is still alive and well in the halls of the Ontario government.

Kathleen Wynne's so-called Open government initiative doesn't exist.


Dear FOI office at the Attorney General's office,

I received your letter dated Nov 2 where you informed me that there will be a fee of at least $450 to get the information I requested:
  • "All information provided to the Ministry of the Attorney General from external sources from January 1, 2017 to October 30, 2017 regarding the need for bubble zones or safe access zones." 
Your letter states that I may request a waiver of this fee due to financial hardship of if release of the record will benefit public health or safety. 

First. This fee will indeed cause me financial hardship.

I have already reduced the scope of my request twice (at your request) in order to reduce the amount of information I requested and to lessen the burden on your office.

As a senior on a fixed income; together with the fact that information in custody of the Ontario government actually belongs to the taxpayer (me and every other resident of Ontario); along with the fact that Kathleen Wynne has publicly stated;
Second. Regarding health and safety. To date, we have seen absolutely no evidence of need for this abortion bubble zone. Yet the government has stated that this law is in effect because of harassment towards women who go for abortions. 

Ottawa police records show no charges or assaults being laid against anyone at the Morgentaler facility in a three and a half year period. Therefore my request is a direct attempt to see what evidence the government actually has concerning this reason for this law, based on the health and safety of these women.

I suggest that this fee be waived in its entirety. I am sure you will agree that citizen access to information--which is only held in custody by the government of the day, and not owned by the government of the day--should not only be accessible to those who have the financial means to obtain this data.

I look forward to hearing back from you at your earliest convenience.

Thank you.

Patricia Maloney

Here is the response I received for my email above from the FOI office of the Attorney General:
Hi Patricia, thanks for your email below. Please note fees are charged in accordance with the legislation to ensure that the burden of processing requests is not passed on to the tax payers.

With regard to Open Government, it does not include the release of personal information, which must be protected in accordance with the privacy provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The records at issue may contain personal information and therefore does not fall within the Open Government initiative.

Concerning your request for a fee waiver, thank-you for your explanations. As mentioned in our letter dated November 2, please provide proof of your financial hardship and/or how the dissemination of the records at issue will benefit public health and safety. For assistance, please refer to the “Fees, Fee Estimates and Fee Waivers” reference material produced by the Information and Privacy Commissioner:

My next response: 

Dear FOI office of the Attorney General,

First. You state:
  • "The records at issue may contain personal information and therefore does not fall within the Open Government initiative."
I am not requesting any personal information. If the records I am seeking, do contain personal information, the usual procedure is to redact this information. Therefore clearly releasing personal information to me is not an issue and my request satisfies the Open Government policy.

Second. The document you sent me states:
  • "When is it fair and equitable to waive fees?...whether the requester worked constructively with the institution to narrow the scope of the request; whether the requester has advanced a compromise solution which would reduce costs;"
I have twice now agreed to reduce the scope of my request.

Third. The document you sent me states:

  • "Generally, the requester must provide details regarding his/her financial situation, which may include information about income, assets and expenses." 
Obviously I have no intention of providing anyone with information "about my income, assets and expenses." This would be a breach of my privacy rights.

Fourth. On numerous previous occasions I have obtained FOI information from the Ontario government. Fees have never been requested of me, except once. That one time I complained and that fee was waived. Therefore the Ontario government has clearly demonstrated a history of not charging me fees. Why should fees now be charged?

Fifth. You ask me how these records:
  • "at issue will benefit public health and safety". 
This abortion bubble zone law's alleged reason for being, is to protect the health and safety of women who go to abortion facilities. Notice that the intention is to protect these women. I see no allowance in the legislation that would provide protection to pro-life people whose health and safety is frequently in danger from people who spit at us; who rip up our signs; who threaten us; who confront us with verbal obscenities; and who block us from our annual peaceful March for life all the while hiding their identity by covering their faces. Our health and safety is threatened frequently in these many ways but we have no protection against that. This is why I want to be able to understand why this legislation was enacted--why are we not also provided with health and safety protection? Why are we being discriminated against by our politicians and others and why is this discrimination allowed to continue?

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Thank you.

Patricia Maloney

1 comment:

  1. Very good holding your own, Patricia. You argue well and with conviction. thanks for your perseverance and for doing this for all of us out here.