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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

DND more and more claims information requested by public don’t exist, however critics have their doubts Categorical Occasions

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Former Canadian navy personnel are questioning such claims.

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The variety of occasions Nationwide Defence has claimed that paperwork requested underneath the Entry to Data legislation don’t exist has greater than doubled over the last eight years.

New figures obtained by this newspaper come on the heels of rising considerations that authorities secrecy is rising and that the entry legislation permitting the general public to request info from federal departments for a $5 price is damaged.

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In fiscal yr 2014-2015, Nationwide Defence claimed in 13 per cent of the entry requests it launched that no information existed. Since then that determine has climbed steadily and in fiscal yr 2022-2023 the division is reporting that no information existed in 26.6 per cent of entry requests it has processed.

In an announcement to this newspaper, Nationwide Defence famous there have been quite a lot of explanation why the general public is perhaps advised no information might be discovered akin to their entry to info requests. Such paperwork may have been destroyed as a result of they had been thought of transitory information solely required for a restricted time, or the request may contain older paperwork that had been despatched to the Libraries and Archives Canada. Or they could have concerned entry requests not associated to Nationwide Defence or the Canadian Forces.

“The proportion of No Information Exist responses displays the amount and nature of requests obtained by the division, and never our info retrieval processes,” mentioned Anne Financial institution, head of Nationwide Defence’s Entry to Data department.

However former Canadian navy personnel are questioning such claims. Various retired personnel who contacted this newspaper identified that they had requested information straight associated to current points about their careers solely to be advised no paperwork existed.

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In different circumstances the division’s responses pressure credibility. For example, Nationwide Defence claimed not a single doc or any info in any respect was despatched to then Defence Minister Anita Anand all through the four-month interval protecting the choice and announcement of the F-35 fighter jet in a $19-billion procurement deal.

Ottawa lawyer Michel Drapeau, who has written a e-book on the Entry to Data legislation, says Nationwide Defence has proven through the years it may’t be trusted to offer info requested underneath the legislation. The division and Canadian Forces officers can get away with falsely claiming information don’t exist once they do as a result of there are few precise penalties for doing so, mentioned Drapeau, a retired colonel.

“Army police don’t actually examine such incidents and the data commissioner shouldn’t be seen as efficient,” Drapeau added. “So you find yourself with a scenario now we have now.”

Data Commissioner Caroline Maynard tabled her annual report back to Parliament in late June, acknowledging what she referred to as a “regular decline of the access-to-information system to the purpose the place it not serves its meant objective.”

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The Canadian Forces and Nationwide Defence have an extended historical past of incidents involving the destruction of information and the withholding of paperwork relationship again to the scandals of the Somalia murders within the early Nineties.

In December 2018, a navy officer on the civilian trial of Vice Adm. Mark Norman testified the Canadian Forces management circumvented the Entry to Data legislation to cover information despite the fact that these had been legally requested.

In January 2019, this newspaper reported that, regardless of being warned what they had been doing was doubtlessly unlawful and punishable by imprisonment, prime navy officers did not disclose vital paperwork requested underneath the entry legislation. At one level, one officer acknowledged the try to assert the information didn’t exist is perhaps found by the federal government’s watchdog, the data commissioner, based on information leaked to this newspaper.

Regardless of that documentation, Maynard, who labored as authorized counsel at Nationwide Defence from 2001 to 2006, decided the scenario resulted from “a scarcity of oversight” on how requests had been being dealt with. A navy police investigation later pinned blame on a clerk regardless of having written proof exhibiting the involvement of senior officers in hiding the information.

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In March 2023, this newspaper revealed that the workplace of Chief of the Defence Workers Wayne Eyre falsely claimed that information requested underneath the entry legislation didn’t exit. Financial institution despatched a letter to this newspaper claiming {that a} thorough and full search had been carried out and that the requested paperwork couldn’t be discovered.

However the information in query had been leaked to this newspaper by sources involved that copies had been being destroyed or illegally withheld. They confirmed Eyre obtained recommendation from a sexual misconduct survivors’ group on tips on how to finesse his public statements about unethical behaviour in addition to reassurances that the group referred to as INJ 700 wasn’t pushing for harsh punishment of senior officers.

Nationwide Defence later claimed a brand new search can be carried out and related recordsdata launched. Nonetheless, the division’s Entry to Data department continues to refuse to offer these information.

Different information associated to INJ 700 and the group’s shut relationship with Canadian navy management have additionally been requested by this newspaper and a few survivors of sexual misconduct. These information proceed to be withheld by the division’s entry department.

Maynard has declined a request from this newspaper to research the scenario.

David Pugliese is an award-winning journalist protecting Canadian Forces and navy points in Canada. To assist his work, together with unique content material for subscribers solely, join right here: ottawacitizen.com/subscribe

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