June 8, 2001
The Access to Information Act should apply to the Export Development Corporation – Montreal’s Metro newspaper quotes Probe International.
The government makes “excessive and unreasonable” use of certain clauses in the Access to Information Act in order to “protect the corporations it awards contracts to,” says Probe International (PI) in a document submitted to a federal task force established to review the Access to Information Act.
To illustrate the need for transparency, PI cites the case of the Chamera I dam, in India, completed in 1994 and financed with a $645 million joint loan from the Export Development Corporation (EDC) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
PI says they have obtained some 1,600 pages of documents relating to the Chamera I dam, but complain that “approximately 20% of those pages were severed, often on the grounds that the information contained in them was submitted confidentially by a third party.”
Some of the text that were released, however, shows that consultants hired by CIDA warned about geological instability that could “lead to a catastrophic event…involving potential losses of lives.”
“Despite its obvious importance to the public interest, this information has never been released before. More troubling, a second dam 30 kilometres upstream of Chamera I is now under construction. But this time only EDC is financing it with a $175 million loan.” Furthermore, EDC, is exempt from releasing information under the Access to Information Act.
Government secrecy threatens not only Canadian democracy, but also puts Third World lives at risk, says PI.
Last August, the federal Government set up the task force to review how the Act is working. The task force is expected to release its final report this fall.
PI’s submission: “Government Secrecy Threatens Canadian Democracy”