I hope we are headed in the right direction . There is so much to uncover
We consistently hear that public trust in institutions is declining. To me, there is a good reason for this.
Corporate capture of governing institutions has been occurring for many decades. This has been exposed for many decades, but only now are large numbers of people becoming tired of it and willing to do something about it.
Perhaps it’s because costs are rising and people are feeling the pinch. Perhaps it’s because our capitalistic system has reached brutal levels of destruction. Perhaps it’s because physical and mental health are declining. It’s probably something deeper as well…
Ultimately, people are feeling that our current societal life is becoming less desirable, and overlooking vast amounts of government corruption is no longer in style.
Amongst all of this is the now-recognized reality that censorship is widespread in Western countries. Not only is there a lack of transparency, but those who seek to provide transparency, or who demand it from the government, are often ridiculed and censored.
Governments cry out as they can’t understand why there is a growing lack of trust in them, often pointing their finger at the internet and fake news. But have they looked at the four fingers that point back at themselves while they point to the ‘extremists’ creating ‘fake news?’
This Story Only Furthers The Loss of Trust
You might recall the ongoing Freedom Convoy FOIA request I’ve been working on for almost a year now.
Long story short. The Solicitor General’s office of Ontario promised us documents, we paid our fees, then they went dark for 5 months. I filed a complaint, and we were assigned an adjudicator to mediate in the process.
Today, I had my second phone call with the adjudicator to find out what is going on. Here are the key notes and updates from that conversation.
- The mediator told me that the Solicitor General’s office will need 1 full year to get me the documents they are already 11 months late on. They also claim the fees will increase significantly.
I intend to appeal the fees in this case as my documents are of high public interest since they deal with the Freedom Convoy.
My gripe with this claim from the ministry is that they could have told me from the start that this would take longer and cost a lot, but they didn’t. This misled me greatly. They negligently dealt with my request, gave me a date, made me pay fees, and are now giving me the slow roll.
How do I even know they will give us the documents a year from now? I don’t, and the adjudicator agrees.
- The adjudicator stated she was mildly frustrated with the way the ministry is handling this case and is on the verge of granting an order for the documents. This means she would order the government to release the documents in a matter of weeks. But, the government is likely to come back stating “We can’t possibly get them done and have the necessary pieces redacted in time.” This would ultimately mean I’d have to take them to court based on the order.
A judge would then hear the case, and who knows what would happen from there. Either way, this would take time and money.
- The adjudicator also suggested I could begin with a small sample of the documents as a start to see how high the fees will be. This will at least get the process of a decision moving so that the appeal process of fee waiver can begin. I would also be allowed to appeal any exemptions (redactions) the government intends to make.
This is kind of desirable as we at least get moving further, and I can jump into the process of waiving fees to see how that goes. But it’s not entirely ideal. I’d also get to try out the process of challenging their redactions.
What does the government have to hide about their decision making during the Freedom Convoy? If they value transparency, why not let the public know how they discussed this highly controversial issue?
- As of now, I have chosen to take a few days to think about my request, how I might be able to amend it, what the costs of lawyers would be to go to court based on the order, and ultimately what story I’m hoping to tell. When I’m ready I will notify the adjudicator of my choice.
This has been a tough request as typically I FOIA for very specific documents. But in this case, I was purposefully broader and sought the communications of several key individuals. Apparently, there are a lot of records here.
My hunch is government acted unfairly during the Freedom Convoy, and I think many people would benefit from and likely change their perspective after seeing what went on behind closed doors.
- The adjudicator told me she has handed out a record number of orders this year. Once again, that means more than ever before she has ordered the government to release documents they are refusing and missing deadlines on.
This could be because a record number of FOIA requests are now being submitted as the public has lost a significant amount of trust in the government.
It is also likely the case because FOIA departments are generally understaffed… we all know governments don’t truly value transparency.
In the end, I take this process and the key point in #5 as a sign that the tides are turning. People are waking up to the nature of our systems and it’s creating moments that might feel frustrating or chaotic but are ultimately that evolutionary pressure we are all looking for.