Clouding Accountability: Canada's Government Secrecy and National Security Law "Complex"

2004
Volume 36, No 1
Craig Forcese

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Abstract

Strong philosophical arguments, interna­tional legal precepts and the federal Access to Information Act favour open­ness and transparency in government. Yet, national security interests may sometimes justify non-disclosure. Deciding when national security should trump access to information is a difficult undertaking, one regulated in Canada by law. Part 1 of this Article sets out the policy and legal basis for open government at the federal level in Canada. Part 2 juxtaposes this informa­tion disclosure regime with government secrecy law. Special attention is paid to the controversial Security of Information Act, the national security exemptions to the Access to Information Act and recent national security amendments to the Canada Evidence Act. The Article argues in Part 3 that these and other statutes comprise a labyrinth of imper­fectly integrated national security secrecy law. The Article concludes with three "quick fixes" bringing government secrecy laws into better alignment with open government policies and international best practices, while at the same time permit­ting non-disclosure of legitimate national security secrets.

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