Facts and arguments

Last month, Attorney General Mike de Jong told reporters the children and youth representative's information rights didn't include cabinet documents because the government is prohibited from releasing such confidences under section 12 the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. But more and more it looks like the foundation of that argument, which was first made by the premier's deputy minister Allan Seckel, is flawed. At the time, we reported that prohibition only applied to the government's response to freedom of information requests - not Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's rights. Then, on Tuesday, the government's senior counsel George Copley didn't use that argument when he made his case against the court enforcing those rights.

But abandoning Mr. Seckel's line of defence didn't help the province. Three days later, Supreme Court of British Columbia Justice Susan Griffin ordered the release of cabinet documents that had been requested by Ms. Turpel-Lafond.

In her decision, Justice Susan Griffin found the representative's information access powers extended to cabinet documents - even though the act governing her office doesn't explicitly say so. "This could not have been an oversight," she wrote, noting the government "created in other legislation express restrictions on production of information that may fall within Cabinet privilege." Among the examples: section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act.

Asked why Mr. Seckel's argument wasn't used in court, a spokesperson for the attorney general's ministry stated, "The response to this question constitutes solicitor-client privilege. Therefore, we will not be responding." Nor would the spokesperson even confirm that argument wasn't used, stating, "If you have a copy of the submission then that answer would be self evident."

Leave a comment

Copyright © 2004 - Public Eye Mediaworks. Reproductions of any portion of this Website are permitted only with the expressed permission of Public Eye Mediaworks.
Canadian Web Hosting graciously provided by dotcanuck Web Services. Layout and graphics courtesy of Art Department Design.