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Keeping information under wraps

If the McGill administration gets its way, they will have the power to decide in what circumstances to be subject to access to information laws.

In December, McGill filed a motion with the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec against 14 McGill students, seeking to disregard several Access to Information (ATI) requests.

In the conclusion of the motion, McGill demands the authority to “disregard future requests […] submitted by the respondents or students of McGill or student journalists of The McGill Daily and the Link (Concordia University) or by persons associated to McGilliLeaked or by persons that could reasonably be linked to such requestors,” if those requests meet one of five vague characteristics.

One of those characteristics includes being “overly broad.” Another is if the request “is associated to one or more categories of documents and information published on McGilliLeaked, a website that compiles the results of ATI requests.
Some of the categories on McGilliLeaked include “administrative,” “contracts,” “construction,” “legal,” “expenses,” and years, such as “2010,” and “2011.”

McGill will not be hard-pressed to meet these criteria should they want to deny an ATI, effectively nullifying the Quebec Act respecting Access to documents held by public bodies and the protection of personal information.

This Act – like access to information laws across the world – is meant to guarantee the transparency and accountability of public institutions, including universities such as McGill.

At a time when McGill is embroiled in several ongoing corruption scandals surrounding the McGill University Health Centre, and as more and more allegations of corruption at the municipal level in Montreal come to light, the public’s right to know is of paramount importance.

Requesting information from McGill has never been a very accessible or transparent process. By asking to disregard ATI requests, McGill is attempting to remove one of the only avenues that journalists and students alike have to investigate the workings of their university. The draconian nature of their recent motion shows just how shallow McGill’s commitment to transparency really is.

—The McGill Daily Editorial Board

Full disclosure: A Daily editor and a regular contributor are among the respondents named in this motion.